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Fanfare Magazine: 44:4 (03-04/2021) 
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Dacapo 6.220651

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Reviewer: James V. Maiello

Buxtehude’s music forms a kind of link between Schütz and Bach for me, an attractive mediation of Baroque style with some pleasant archaicism and a similar blend of Teutonic and Italianate styles. In particular, he was influenced heavily by the music of composers who thrived in the Baltic states in the later 17th century. Jacob Bloch Jesperen and Concerto Copenhagen explore these connections here under the direction of Lars Ulrik Mortensen, offering a forensic accounting of sorts of the music that shaped Buxtehude’s own. Recording in Trinitatis Church in Copenhagen, the musicians have opted for Chorton pitch (A=465 Hz), one of the popular Baroque tunings for organs and church music in northern Europe, as the name implies. This gives the recording a bright warmth that is well suited to the brass and woodwinds and gives a luminosity to the strings that contrasts well with the richness of Jespersen’s rich bass-baritone.

The program opens with Buxtehude’s solo cantata Ich bin die Auferstehung, as if to provide a baseline against which to compare the composer’s predecessors. It also serves as a fine introduction to the musicians. Jespersen by turns effervescent and plaintive, creating distinct vocal colors to match the Affekt of the music and text. Concerto Copenhagen is, as usual, in fine form. The ensemble offers a taut reading of the score that is punctuated by dazzling passagework and sensitively shaped lines. The organ in the Trinitatis Church is an exceptional Italian instrument that dates from 1770 and which was restored and installed in the Copenhagen church in 2013. It is perfect for this repertoire, and Mortensen’s continuo playing is intelligent and stable. Erben’s Sonata sopra ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la follows, another showpiece for the instrumentalists, whose nuanced playing sounds easy and natural, even conversational throughout.

Other highlights include Meder’s Gott hilf mir, one of three world premiere recordings on the album. Likely for a Vespers service, one can hear the gestures and musical vocabulary of Schütz, there is a dramatic quality to the music that both Jespersen and the ensemble exploit to full effect. Traversing a landscape that includes pyrotechnic virtuosity, anguished dissonance, and ominously tense motion, the piece and its performance are a tour de force. Nicholas Bruhns’s setting of Psalm 57, Mein Herz ist bereit, is a revelation, both in the inventiveness of the music and its interpretation by the performers. The virtuoso solo violin part is handled deftly by Frederik From, and Jespersen just exudes a sense of celestial joy; his voice is nimble and exuberant, wholly convincing. The concerted selections are interspersed with solo and chamber instrumental works, and among these, Mortensen delivers a standout performance of Weckmann’s Toccata in A Minor on a harpsichord. In short, this recording is a home run. The program is coherent, conceptually, and the performances are of the highest quality. This music is underrepresented on disc, and it has never sounded better.

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