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Fanfare Magazine: 43:4 (03-04/2020) 
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Schütz: The Christmas story & other works Product Image

Code-barres / Barcode : 034571283159

Reviewer: J. F. Weber

The Christmas Story (as it is billed on the cover, though it is sung in German) is filled out with six shorter works that belong to the season. Hans-Christoph Rademann (Fanfare 38:4) included five similar fillers with the main work, but duplicated only SWV 456 and 468 among these, and Jean Tubéry (40:5) also included these two on his disc. Louis Devos (10:3) added three fillers, including SWV 384 and 385. So David Hill’s well-filled Schütz Christmas program has an advantage. Already this is the fifth CD that Hill has made for Hyperion since his arrival in New Haven in 2013. His first, an unfamiliar Palestrina Mass (41:6), was an augury of things to come. The student singers and players are remarkably fine. Tenor James Reese is an excellent Evangelist in the main work. I had to compare him directly with Rademann’s tenor (Georg Poplutz) and Adam Riis in Paul Hillier’s version (33:5) to confirm his superb execution of the role. The rest of the soloists and the ensemble as a whole demonstrate the remarkable achievement that Hill has wrought at Yale. He did not found the Schola Cantorum, for it dates to 2003 and has worked under many directors. But a cursory glance at previous issues in the Fanfare Archive indicates that Hill has raised the Schola to a new level of excellence.

Hill has the largest ensemble of the three issues. Rademann has a smaller chorus but a similar instrumental group, while Hillier has fewer members of both ensembles than either. Yet the Yale singers are so light, flexible, and youthful that they hardly sound like a larger group. All three versions of the main work are excellent, so the balance of the program may influence a buyer’s choice. This well-filled disc does have competition from Hillier’s coupling, the even more generous filler, the Resurrection Story, which matched an earlier pairing by Frieder Bernius (14:4). Hill’s programming is nicely calculated, the main work climactic, the other six selections alternating the longer Latin-texted pieces with the German motets. Ave Maria is one of the Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II, nicely done by Ludger Rémy (42:1), while the three German-texted pieces (SWV 384, 385, and 395) are included in Geistliche Chormusik, the most often recorded of the published books, the superb opening entry in Rademann’s complete set (31:1). The early Hodie Christus natus est, recorded half a dozen times, and the much-recorded Latin Magnificat have both appeared recently only from Rademann, as noted above.

The detailed notes on each work were written by Harry Haskell, an authoritative figure in New Haven. Rademann has a fine entry in his complete set and Hillier’s group of the composer’s six major works (on four CDs) is notable, but David Hill can match the quality of both. Recommended.


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