Homilius and Agricola cantatas move beyond Bach

The Easter cantatas in this recording come from two contemporaries of Johann Sebastian Bach. And both take different approaches to the subject. Gottfried August Homilius was thirty years younger than Bach.

Gottfried August Homilius was thirty years younger than Bach. Contemporary accounts describe him as one of the best sacred music composers of his day. Homilius wrote in the empfindsamer style, which represented a more natural form of expression than the cerebral Baroque.

That simpler aesthetic permeates his Easter Oratorio Frohlocket und preiset den göttlichen Held (Shout for joy and praise the godly hero). The oratorio’s subject is the discovery by Mary Magdalene that Jesus has risen.

The music is joyous, and light. Homilius’ choruses are mostly homophonic, with very little complex (read: outdated) counterpoint. It’s easy to understand why his music had such popular appeal.

The release features two works by Johann Friedrich Agricola. Agricola was a student of Bach’s, and served as one of his copyists. His style remains close to his teacher’s.

Both Der Gottmensch jauchzt (the divine human exults) and Die Auferstehung des Erüsers (Resurrection of the Saviour) are joyous. But Agricola’s joy is a little more restrained than Homilius’.

The choruses are more polyphonic, and the arias stylistically lean closer to the Baroque than the Roccoco.

That being said, all three compositions are masterfully written. Both Homilius and Agricola wrote beautiful melodies and luminous choruses.

The performances by Michal Alexander Willens and the Kölner Akademie are luminous as well. The choruses are sung by a four-voice ensemble supplemented by a few soloists, keeping the music light and airy. The album itself is well-recorded, further adding to the appeal of this music.

Johann Friedrich Agricola; Gottfried August Homilius
Easter Cantatas
Hannah Morrison, Rahel Maas, Bethany Seymour, sopranos; Elisabeth Popien, alto; Georg Poplutz, tenor; André Morsch, bass
Kölner Akademie; Michal Alexander Willens, conductor
CPO 555 332-2 

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