Schein Vocal Works
Diletti pastorali (''Pastoral delights'') is the title of Johann Hermann Schein's 1624 collection of Italian-style madrigals, and how appropriate it is, for the music—which I did not know before—is absolutely delightful. So is this recording. Cantus Colln is a recently formed group of solo singers either native to or resident in Germany, some of whom—like David Cordier and Wilfried Jochens—are well known in this country from other contexts, but who here blend together extraordinarily well in virtuoso performances that are quite stunning in their expressivity and nuance. No problems with the language here: how flexible yet precise is the German, the words as clear as a crystal stream but at times touched as lightly as a dragonfly hovering over its surface. All this is absolutely essential to the music, for Schein proves himself to be a master of the idiom and of the delicate balance at play in the relationship of words to music. Some of the texts are believed to be by Schein himself, but it is clear that for him musical considerations were constantly to the fore, the very conventionality of the textual imagery allowing flights of musical fancy that work on two levels, bringing out by turn the specific pictorial element or the general underlying emotion with unerring aptness.
The influence of Monteverdi in terms of harmonic language and contrast of texture is very apparent in the Diletti pastorali, which could almost be said here to form a 'sweet Phyllis' cycle. A few drinking and other songs are introduced from other collections to add variety (some have a decidedly more Germanic flavour). This is almost counter-effective (
The basic combination of five singers (SATTB) is supported and coloured by either harpsichord or lute (the latter played by the director of the ensemble, Konrad Junghanel). The muted tone colours of the lute work particularly well in this context: try the magical sound world of