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Vox Luminis - Hammerschmidt: Ach Jesus stirbt - American Record Guide

Sacred vocal works on this release survey the full of range of Andreas Hammerschmidt's published output, from the Musicalischer Andachten of 1639 to his Fest und Zeit Andachten of 1671. They show the variety of styles then current in Lutheran Germany: sacred madrigals, symphonies, motets, and concertos. While madrigal suggests a turn toward dramatic expression, concerto, symphony, and motet point to the concertato style, which integrates instruments and voices, sometimes arranged in discrete choirs. The program shows genius from beginning to end, both of the composer and the modern performers. The first motet, 'Ach Jesus Stirbt', from Fest und Zeit Andachten, reflects an expressive style akin to Hammerschmidt's other madrigal-like works. Incorporating dissonance, usually through suspensions, shows the composer's command of the stile moderno. The style is perhaps even more explicit in 'O Barmherziger Vater', from the Sacred Concertos of 1641, where solo voices sing rising chromatic figures against an organ continuo. Works from Kirchen und Tafel Music of 1662 have been noted for their inventive combinations of instruments and voices. 'Christ Lag in Todesbanden' is one of these. The interaction of slower phrases and rapid declamation in women’s voices suggests the influence of the "agitated style" known as the stile concitato. Blending men’s and women’s voices with trombones adds rich and bold concord, often in dance-like fashion. The polychoral motet `Siehe, Wie Fein und Lieblich Ist’, from Geistliche Motetten und Conzerten of 1646, would have been perfectly suited for the Johanneskirche in Zittau, where Hammerschmidt spent most of his career. Jerome LeJeune notes that the church had three choir galleries, each with its own organ. Hammerschmidt here infuses drama by incorporating echo effects, underscored with tiered dynamics to give the impression of short phrases disappearing into the ether. The most arresting works on the program are perhaps the ones that offer the greatest variety of vocal and instrumental color. 'Triumph, Triumph, Victoria' is a vocal concerto from Fest Buss und Dancklieder of 1658-9. It calls for male soloists and choir, which alternate with an ensemble of trumpets, trombones, bassoon, and continuo. The effect is breathtaking. What a delightful recording! Texts and notes are in English.

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American Record Guide
01 April 2021