Jauchzet Dem Herr: The Psalms of David in 17th Century Northern Germany
Finely adorned with Rubens’s study of King David with his harp, this release focuses on 17th-century north German psalm-settings for tenor and ensemble. If that sounds rather earnest, the idea is quickly dispelled by the opening track, Buxtehude’s Dixit Dominus, delivered as a joyous clamour of voice, strings and harpsichord with a lusty bassoon adding both weight and definition. That this is a surprisingly vivid programme is partly because of the colour offered by combinations of winds and strings, and partly a result of an intimate recording which means that no one is allowed to be a shrinking violet. The closeness is perhaps because it was made in an organ loft, that of St Mary and St Pancras in Mariendrebber, presumably chosen to allow the use of the building’s 17th-century organ; but although the instrumental playing reaches the standard to be expected from Jean Tubéry’s classy ensemble, the balance can be messy, with the strings at times uncomfortably prominent.
Tenor Hans Jörg Mammel has an incisive voice but he struggles in places to find easy movement and grateful tone-production; his best moments are Mit Fried und Freud, Buxtehude’s gently throbbing lament for his father, and Christoph Bernhard’s Aus der Tiefe, a piece that defies expectations with its overall cheerfulness (initiated by a rocket-like blast-off from the depths in its opening bars) while also including a Monteverdi-like lament at its heart. Some of the other rarities also deserve their exposure: a canzona by Johann Sommer floats cornetts and violins over a slow-moving swell of continuo; and Bruhns’s Jauchzet dem Herren is a lengthy but skilfully shaped piece graced by gleefully florid vocal lines and even a fugue. Fans of the richness of German 17th-century Baroque should certainly investigate, though they may be disappointed by the fact that the booklet-notes give information on only some of the pieces.