Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Kleine geistliche Konzerte
Op.8 SWV 282-305 & Op.9 SWV 306-337
Weser-Renaissance/Manfred Cordes
CPO 999 675-2 (3 CDs; 195' 34")
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The Little Sacred Concertos (1636 & 1639) are concise little cantatas, all written by their prolific and industrious composer in a short period before their publication, each for no more than a few singers, with modest accompaniment. They were conceived during 'times contrary to the liberal arts' when finances were stretched with current wartime campaigns. The texts are biblical, with many Psalms and some German hymns. Each of the two parts begins with single voices, and builds up to pieces for five voices. Those for fewer voices with continuo deal with the texts in an intensive fashion, the larger ones including both the 'oratorio style', invented to present a speech in music and also motet-like passages.

The Bremen forces, with 11 singers and a dozen instrumentalists who ring the changes on violins, viola da gamba, dulcian, chitarrone, harp, harpsichord and positive organ, were sympathetically recorded in Bassum during a fortnight in February 1999. There are charts detailing singers, players and their instruments carefully, but to follow those and the texts means a lot of page turning.

It is delightful music but best taken in small sessions, ideally one CD at a time with a break for refreshment halfway, we found. As it should be easy to assemble suitable forces, the Kleine geistliche Konzerte ought to be far better known. A very successful project, which will give a lot of pleasure.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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