lietofinelondon

Aria For … Friday – Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (Heinrich Schütz)

In Aria For ..., Baroque, Classical Music on February 7, 2014 at 10:50 am

Not an aria and not the more famous chorus by JS Bach. But rather the version for double choir by Heinrich Schütz but just as impressive.

Schütz travelled to Italy at least twice. First to study with Gabrieli – the master of polychoral composition – and then with Monteverdi and their influence is very much in evidence in this beautiful chorus. The more Italianate style – including the use of infectious dance-like rhythms – had a lasting effect on Germany music and I imagine must have caused a few raised eyebrows even back in more worldly Dresden. It’s also worth noting that he spent some time in Copenhagen during the reign of Christian IV, one of the most Renaissance of monarchs who’s love of music even included his employment for a time of John Dowland.

Like his Italian contemporaries, Schütz is every bit the dramatist, deploying the chorus and playing with the sonorities with incredible effect. The opening is deceptive, the first entry of full chorus and orchestra delayed until the repeat of the first line – almost as if the penitents in the church first declare the honour of God before the ‘Heavens’ join with them.

And this juxtaposition with smaller groupings within the choir gives this chorus a real sense not only of tension but jubilation.

And there’s some effective word painting. When the text refers to no part of the world being immune to God’s preaching, the chorus builds in in contrapuntal complexity to convey a sense of scale to this. Or listen to how the chorus merrily trip along at wie ein Held zu laufen den Weg. You can almost imagine them running.

And at the end, for those most important words – Ehre sei dem Vater, und dem Sohn und auch dem Heil’gen Geiste, wie es war im Anfang, jetzt und immerdar und von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit – we find Schütz at his most reverent. He effectively slows down the momentum and punches out the words, ending on a simple yet majestic Amen.

Written and published in the 1640s this is Heinrich Schütz at his finest – majestic, inspired yet still devotional and sung most marvellously by the Monteverdi Choir under John Elliot Gardiner.

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