This reading shows the gentleness of the work perfectly…The essence of the score that Herreweghe brings out so well is Mendelssohn's flawless counterpoint, not just the fugal choruses but between orchestra and choir or woodwind and strings. The harmonic richness leaps out from the opening of the overture, with its lush orchestration of the chorale Wachet auf. It makes so much sense on a period orchestra.
Philippe Herreweghe’s Beethoven symphonies cycle with the Royal Flemish Orchestra, recorded between 2004 and 2009, belongs to PENTATONE’s most renowned and successful releases. Herreweghe and his orchestra have been widely praised for their lively interpretation, full of clarity. Together, they achieve a historically informed performance while using modern instruments, expanded with natural horns and historical timpani. The excellent sound quality of this recording adds to the extraordinary acoustic sensation. This boxset is now presented in a new, convenient clamshell design.
Philippe Herreweghe, respected elder of the early choral music world, directs a pared-down version of his choir Collegium Vocale Gent in delectably careful performances of music that in less careful hands can sound plain crazy. The slippery harmonies of Carlo Gesualdo’s sixth book of madrigals, written in 1611 but sounding centuries ahead of their time, are nailed down with the sharpest, slenderest of pins thanks to the perfect tuning and clear tone of Herreweghe’s ensemble. One to each line, the singers maintain a finely balanced blend, emerging briefly as soloists at moments of emphasis. Some may find the ambience a bit churchified for these texts, in which images of frolicking cupids are heavily outweighed by the laments of unbedded lovers miserably invoking death; but the performances are full of subtle nuance, and you’re unlikely to hear passages such as the end of Io Pur Respiro, with its sliding, viscous harmonies, better done.
Beethoven composed the oratorio Christus am Ölberge (C hrist on the Mount of Olives ) in just ‘a fortnight, amid all sorts of tumult and other unpleasant and alarming events in my life’. It marked the first time since the two ‘imperial cantatas’ of 1790, the Cantata on the Death of the Emperor Joseph II WoO 87 and the Cantata on the Accession of Leopold II WoO 88, that he had embarked on a multi-movement vocal work. Christus am Ölberge was also Beethoven’s first composition on a religious subject and was destined to remain his only oratorio.
Originally recorded in 1988, this was one of the recordings that made historical performance practice the mainstream when it came to Bach's major choral works. Every moment of the mass was thought through anew, every bit of conventional piety purged. Major B minor mass recordings in the following years have developed one aspect or another further than conductor Philippe Herreweghe does here; Masaaki Suzuki's Bach Collegium Japan chisels out the counterpoint in greater detail, and for grand reverential warmth there's always John Eliot Gardiner. But for a constant sense of wonder that makes even the larger harmonic structure of the mass seem surprising as it unfolds – for a real sense of a group responding not only to a conductor's control but to his artistic vision – this reading by Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale Ghent remains unexcelled.
This recording is, quite frankly, a marvel. In the opening bars of the Kyrie, where tradition dictates a powerful, agonized cry for mercy, Philippe Herreweghe offers a gentle, awestruck plea that took this listener's breath away. Extroverted movements like the Gloria, Et resurrexit, and Sanctus lack nothing in excitement; Qui tollis and Dona nobis pacem feel like fervent prayers. Herreweghe's luminous Collegium Vocale and skillful, sensitive instrumentalists make every gesture, large and small, seem exactly right. The soloists have attractive voices that blend with the period instruments and each other; while each is exquisite, tenor Christoph Prégardien and alto Andreas Scholl are magnificent.
Monteverdi’s Fourth Book of Madrigals, published in 1603 after an eleven-year gestation, bears witness to the metamorphosis of the madrigal and the rapid evolution of music at the turn of the two centuries. It is also a model of the genre and may be regarded as one of the most innovative and emblematic of its composer’s style.
Although frequently classified as an oratorio, C. P. E. Bach's Auferstehung und Himmeelfahrt Jesu is really a cantata. There are no named dramatis personae and it is evident from Emanuel Bach's own comments that he intended the work to have a partly didactic function. He also considered it, in his own words as "pre-eminent among all my vocal works in expression and in the composition". The author of the text was Karl Wilhelm Ramler, an important poet of the German Enlightenment whose texts had earlier attracted Telemann. Ramler and Bach engaged in a close collaboration over the Auferstehung and between Bach's setting of it in 1774 and the eventual publication by Breitkopf in 1787, composer and poet entered into a lively correspondence concerning the details and shape of the cantata. The first performance took place in Hamburg in 1778 when it was warmly received. Many subsequent performances were given culminating in three directed by Mozart in Vienna.
Cinq ans après Atys, Armide grâce à la sensibilité de Philippe Herreweghe est l’objet d’un accomplissement rare. Depuis Cadmus (1673), Lully travaille la déclamation chantée dont le meilleur exemple ici est dans les nombreuses langueurs qui étreignent le cour d’Armide, le célèbre « Enfin il est en ma puissance » (II,4), modèle de l’art lullyste, cité par Rameau pendant la Querelle des Bouffons (1753). Voici la seconde approche de l’ouvrage par le chef flamand. La lisibilité de la progression dramatique est assurée par la définition d’un orchestre, précis, fascinant, véritable acteur. Outre Acis (passacaille finale), ouvrage ultime, aucune ouvre à part Armide, n’exprime à ce degré, l’émotivité instrumentale de Lully.
Hans Leo Hassler was roughly contemporary with Palestrina and wrote in a similarly transparent style. Though he was Lutheran, he set numerous Latin texts, including the Mass. " Missa super Dixit Maria is a "parody" based on Hassler's famous motet Dixit Maria ad angelum. That motet isn't included here, unfortunately, but you can clearly hear its themes recurring in the various Mass movements. The motets on this disc include several penitential items with a striking chromaticism Palestrina wouldn't have touched. Vater unser, a setting of Luther's versification of the Lord's Prayer, seems dull in this company.