JS Bach • Helm­schrott

BBC Music Magazine - - Reviews -

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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