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Reviewer:  David Vickers

Hot on the heels of uneven accounts of Handel’s so-called German Arias by Ina Siedlaczek (Audite) and Gillian Keith (Channel Classics, 8/17), here is an enjoyable offering by Marie Friederike Schöder (a graduate of the University of Halle – the same institution at which the composer and the poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes would have first met). The nine arias are grouped into triptychs entitled ‘Morality’, ‘Nature-Romanticisation’ and ‘Quiet Desire – Love’, although Brockes’s poems are essentially all about one thing: the individual’s contemplation of the beauty of God’s creation, and the blissfulness of a moral Christian life beyond reproach.

The treble-instrument stave is unlabelled in Handel’s score; some scholars consider that this probably signifies solo violin throughout but many performers take a different view and pursue flexible variety. It seems to me that mixing up instrumentation during individual arias is neither necessary nor desirable (such as when violinist Daniel Deuter takes over from oboist Xenia Löffler for the middle section of ‘Künftiger Zeiten eitler Kummer’); however, spellbinding musicianship from all participants prevents any sense of unwelcome interventionism, and Löffler’s recorder doubling the violin during ‘Süsser Blumen Ambraflocken’ is undeniably effective (I am less convinced by her oboe doubling the voice part in ‘Flammende Rose’). Löffler’s obbligato oboe is a soulful mirror to Schöder’s articulate sensitivity in ‘Die ihr aus dunklen Grüften’ and ‘Meine Seele hört im Sehen’ (both musicians embellish with admirable taste), whereas ‘Singe Seele, Gott zum Preise’ and ‘Das zitternde Glänzen’ match Deuter’s discreet cantabile fantasy to Schöder’s rapt intimacy. The continuo parts are realised eloquently by Batzdorf Hofkapelle, whose musical pacing is almost always adroit – with the notable exception of an overly laboured ‘Süsse Stille’.

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