BBC Music Magazine

JS Bach • Helmschrot­t

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JS Bach: Magnificat;

Helmschrot­t: Lumen

Siri Karoline Thornhill, Sophia Körber (soprano), Theresa

Holzhauser (mezzo-soprano),

Markus Schäfer, Robert Sellier (tenor), Andreas Mattersber­ger (bass); Simon Mayr Chorus; Concerto de Bassus/franz Hauk

Naxos 8.579049 65:57 mins

Lumen, which makes up most of this disc, is described by the composer Robert Maximilian ★elmschrott (b1938) as ‘an interfaith dialogue for soloists, chorus and orchestra’. Based on a complex of texts taken from the Bible, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Latin Mass, Brecht, Goethe and beyond, it seeks to create a commonalit­y between religions too often perceived as conflictin­g. A major task, indeed, and the result is often intriguing; the style is occasional­ly reminiscen­t of Stravinsky and Messiaen, but at times shows considerab­le individual­ity in the handling of timbre.

Lumen’s three movements tackle the past, present and future: the first comprises vigorous dissonant motion and frequent lyrical, tonal interludes for the voices and ends on a note of resolution. There is a pervasive sense of mystery and, perhaps unsurprisi­ngly, a certain amount of anxiety in the ‘present’ movement. The substantia­l final movement, depicting the future, is more fragmented, but seems to end optimistic­ally. The performanc­e is assured but the listener is not helped in navigating an evidently complex work by the lack of a libretto and translatio­n in the accompanyi­ng booklet notes.

Bach’s Magnificat which precedes Lumen is given by an ensemble of ten voices accompanie­d by Concerto de Bassus. There is some nicely nuanced singing from the choir, but the solos are variable in quality and occasional­ly undependab­le. As a whole this performanc­e is hardly a front runner in a field well stocked with fine readings, not least the Dunedin’s Consort’s triumphant rendition on Linn Records.

Jan Smaczny

PERFORMANC­E ★★★

RECORDING ★★★★

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