Machet die Tore weit
Andreas HAMMERSCHMIDT (1612-1675)
Machet die Tore weit [1:55]
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
Der Morgenstern ist aufgedrungen [2:40]
Walther SCHMIDT (1913-1991)
Zu Beth'lem überm Stall [2:27]
Den die Hirten lobeten sehre (Der Quempas) [5:51]
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (SWV 386) [4:07]
Jean CLANCHÉ (no dates given)
Wunderbare Freude! Wunderbare Nacht! [5:00]
David WILLCOCKS (b.1919)
Herbei, o ihr Gläubigen [4:25]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf, op. 74,2 [4:29]
Johann ECCARD (1553-1611)
Nun komm der Heiden Heiland [2:56]
O komm, o komm Immanuel [4:09]
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen [4;20]
Siegfried REDA (b.1948)
Magnificat peregrini toni [4:44]
Übers Gebirg Maria ging [2:55]
Carl RIEDEL (1827-1888)
Kommet, ihr Hirten [1:30]
Albert BECKER (1834-1899)
Fürchtet euch nicht [2:53]
Heinrich SCHÜTZ
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt (SWV 380) [2:29]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fürchte dich nicht (BWV 228) [8:43]
Kay Johannsen (organ), Michael Aures, Daniel Kartmann (percussion), Katarzyna Mycka (marimbaphone, vibraphone),
Handel's Companye Continuo
Stuttgarter Hymnus-Chorknaben/Rainer Johannes Homburg
rec. 2-5 June 2011, the Christuskirche, Stuttgart-Gänsheide, Germany. DDD
Text included, no translations
Christmastide is a great time for choirs. Concerts attract large audiences, and there is much repertoire to choose from. There is also a wide market for discs with Christmas music. This explains why several of such discs with the Stuttgarter Hymnus-Chorknaben are on the market. Its present conductor, Rainer Johannes Homburg, writes in his liner-notes: "Ever since its re-establishment after 1945, all its directors have presented recordings for Advent and Christmas."
This choir may not be one of the world's most famous choirs of boys and men. It has built up a good reputation, in particular among its former conductor, Gerhard Wilhelm (1918-2009), who retired in 1987. This disc bears witness to the choir's qualities. It presents an attractive programme of mostly German music from the late 16th century to the present time. One of the features is that the singing is stylish. By that I mean that there is a clear difference in the way the various pieces are sung dependent on the time of their composition. The motets by Eccard and Schütz, for instance, are performed with marked accents on the stressed syllables and basically non-legato, whereas in the motet O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf by Brahms the choir sings much more legato. In a piece like Fürchtet euch nicht by Albert Becker, the treatment of dynamics is in accordance with common practice in the 19th century. The disc closes with the motet Fürchtet euch nicht by Johann Sebastian Bach, in which the rhythm is wonderfully exposed, even though I felt that the choir here is close to its technical limits.
The qualities and the stylistic characteristics of this choir are such that this disc could have been really good. If ... the conductor had not come up with the bad idea of arranging many pieces, in particular the early stuff. These arrangements mainly involve the addition of various percussion instruments and/or marimbaphone and vibraphone. The programme opens with the 6-part Machet die Tore weit by Andreas Hammerschmidt. It is a mystery to me why it was thought necessary to add percussion. It doesn't make it any better; qiute the contrary. The same goes for the two motets by Michael Praetorius. If a choral performance was thought to be less 'festive', then the addition of period wind instruments, like cornetts and sackbuts, would have been a much better option. Although I don't know the original versions of the pieces by Walther Schmidt and Jean Clanché I can't imagine that they really need such instruments as marimbabraphone, vibraphone, crotales or congas. It is no surprise that the unarranged pieces come off best by far.
One more modern piece whose original I do know is O come all ye faithful in the arrangement by David Willcocks, here sung on the text Herbei, o ihr Gläubigen. It’s a Christmas evergreen in Britain. Homburg even decided to sing it in the English style, but that doesn't work, which is partly due to the German text. I am not impressed by the quality of the German translation anyway, but once again it proves how hard it is to sing music which is so strongly connected to a specific text. I have the same feeling here as in English hymns which were originally based on German music. For some reasons Willcocks’ famous descant doesn't sound as well in young German throats as in those of their British counterparts.
The genuine German pieces receive much better performances. A nice example is Magnificat peregrini toni by Siegfried Reda in which the organ plays the major role. The choral part is an arrangement of the melody from the Cantional (1627) by Johann Hermann Schein, on the German text Meine Seele erhebt den Herren. Carl Riedel's Kommet, ihr Hirten is an arrangement of a traditional melody from the early 17th century. The dynamic contrasts here are handled particularly well.
All in all, I have mixed feelings about this disc. I admire the choir's singing and its sense of style, and the unarranged pieces are done rather well. That makes it even more frustrating that the oldest pieces in the programme are damaged by arrangements.
Johan van Veen
The choir's singing and its sense of style are admirable, but the arrangements of various pieces were a bad idea.