Schütz: Matthäuspassion

Georg Poplutz, Felix Rumpf, Dresdner Kammerchor, Hans-Christoph Rademann
70:27
Carus 83.259
+Litania SWV458, O du allersüßester SWV340, In dich hab ich gehofft SWV446

This eleventh volume in the Dresdener Kammerchor’s projected complete recording of the works of Heinrich Schütz brings them to a work of his extreme old age, his Matthew Passion. According to Dresden Schlosskapelle edicts up to the end of the 17th century, instruments were forbidden from playing during passion tide, as a result of which three quarters of Schütz’s Matthew Passion consists of unaccompanied recitative while the balance is made up of a cappella choral singing. The former can be a little wearing for modern audiences, although the undoubted power of the choral contribution is undoubtedly heightened by the minimalism of the bulk of the work. The huge dramatic and musical responsibility which lands on the shoulders of the Evangelist and Jesus is easily born by Georg Poplutz and Felix Rumpf respectively, who sing with engaging expression and drama. And if you like your 17th-century part-music sung by a small choir, as opposed to a group of soloists singing one to a part, you couldn’t ask for more effective advocates than the Dresdener Kammerchor who sing with admirable focus and unanimity. The fillers are also small treasures, particularly the late setting of Luther’s Litania, which in this performance takes on an almost narcotic quality, with its statement and response pattern. Particularly touching are the translation of the Agnus Dei and Kyrie which occur at the end, almost like a folk memory of the Catholic Mass. I noticed an occasional small degree of distortion on the Evangelist’s microphone as if he was sometimes overstepping the max setting, or perhaps standing too close to the microphone, but otherwise the recording is of Carus’s usual high quality.

D. James Ross