Praetorius Lutherische Choralkonzerte – Models of Christian Clarity

This release is part of CPO’s “Music from Wolfenbüttel Castle” series. And in this case, it’s especially fitting.

It was at Wolfenbüttel that Michael Praetorius served Henry Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Praetorius served as court organist and composer.  When Frederick Ulrich succeeded Julius, Praetorius remained. He was buried Wolfenbüttel.

Julius and Ulrich were staunch Lutherans, as was Praetorius (his father had studied with Luther). This release presents a selection of Praetorius’ Lutheran chorales. Praetorius was familiar with Giuseppe Gabrieli’s compositions, and these works show that influence.

Like Gabrieli’s canzonas, these chorales rely on contrast. They often separate the chorus into two smaller antiphonal ensembles. Some of the chorales also use cantus firmus, following the technique of Johann Walter for Lutheran choral music.

Clarity of the message was the overriding priority in early Lutheran church music. Praetorius holds to that ideal in these work. Though the settings are engaging, imaginative, and sometimes complex, the texts remain clear and easy to understand.

The Weser-Renaissance Bremen maintains that tradition of clarity. They perform these works in a straightforward manner that sounds absolutely authentic. The recording space in Wolfenbüttel Castle has an intimate ambiance that adds warmth to the ensemble’s sound. The sound and performances seemed to transport me back to the early 1600s when these works were new.

Michael Praetorius: Lutherische Choralkonzerte
Weser-Renaissance Bremen; Manfred Cordes, director
CPO 555 064-2

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