BBC Music Magazine

Buxtehude

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Membra Jesu nostri

The Chapel Choir of Trinity Hall, Cambridge; Orpheus Britannicu­s; Newe Vialles/andrew Arthur Resonus RES10238 70:17 mins

If we didn’t know differentl­y it would be pardonable to suppose that Buxtehude’s seven-cantata cycle was the product of a fervent southern Catholicis­m more suited to Spain than Stockholm (for which city it was possibly commission­ed). The idea of seven meditation­s each focusing graphicall­y on a corporeal aspect of the crucified Christ suggests something distant from the Lutheran mind-set; something wreathed in incense, lit by guttering candles and illustrate­d by El Greco. Yet the language has much in common with some of the poetic texts Bach set; and, from the first notes, the music speaks resolutely of North Germany

(albeit as Andrew Arthur’s spacious direction underlines, with incursions from Italy). And there’s another paradox too. For just as a contemplat­ion of the nailed hands, the pierced side, the spittle-flecked face might suppose a music suffused with grief and penitence, more often than not, breast-beating yields to a sense of joy and optimism born of the promise of salvation incarnate in the chosen images.

To these paradoxes this latest recording adds another. For whether you incline to the one-toa-part blueprint favoured by The Sixteen and Cantus Cölln (whose cultivated German-style Latin adds illuminati­ng piquancy), or the chamber choir readings of Gardiner or Koopman, the collegiate blend of the Trinity ★all Choir, seductive and ravishing as it is, adds a plush Anglican gloss that sometimes works against the edgy grain of the always-compelling instrument­al contributi­ons from Newe Vialles and Orpheus Britannicu­s – the latter’s vocal consort eloquently shoulderin­g the arias’ various solos and expressive­ly calculated ensembles. Paul Riley PERFORMANC­E ★★★★

RECORDING ★★★★

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