Easy to recommend enthusiastically (Buxtehude CD)

01.03.11, GRAMOPHONE

Scandinavian Cantatas, Dacapo Records

Less familiar fare is explored by Paul Hillier and the Theatre of Voices. Their programme of “Scandinavian Cantatas” presents both of Buxtehude’s little-known short works in Latin, including the composer’s only Missa brevis written in the stile antico. Organist Bine Brydorf has already recorded a survey of Buxtehude’s organ music on historic instruments for Dacapo but here she provides two magnificent solo performances played on the organ of St Mary’s in Elsinore (where Buxtehude worked from 1660 until 1668 when he got his job for life at St Mary’s in Lubeck).

The Theatre of Voices convey a compelling atmosphere of drama, commitment and plangent sonorities in Buxtehude’s setting of Pangue lingua gloriosi (a medieval hymn attributed to Thomas Aquinas), and the introductory sonata to the psalm Ecce nunc benedicite Domino is played with refined joyfulness. Even though Buxtehude probably did not compose Accedite gentes, its text of paraphrased psalms is communicated with vigour and authority. The Swedish concertato chorale Herren vår Gud is performed eloquently and the lamentful aria Att du Jesu vill mig höra is sung sincerely by soprano Else Torp. Dacapo’s stunning sound engineering, Kerala Synder’s expert essay and the superb musicianship of the six voices (personnel almost identical to Hillier’s Schutz cycle with Ars Nova Copenhagen) and seven instrumentalists (led immaculately by violinist Peter Spissky) make this easy to recommend enthusiastically.

David Vickers