On May 14 the Cantata Singers will close their 2009-2010 season, devoted to the music of Heinrich Schütz and related composers with an all-Schütz program of late works. On this occasion Music Director David Hoose chats with Michaerl Miller about music in Boston, choral music, and the Cantata Singers.
Last Friday, January 15th, the Cantata Singers under Music Director David Hoose continued their season centered around the music of Heinrich Schütz, on this occasion performing at the First Church, Cambridge. This can be a problematic venue, with blurry sound, especially for solo voices. But Friday there were no solo voices, and the a capella mixed choir and eventually a small orchestra sounded fine—well balanced and clear enough, at least where I was sitting, which was fairly close. The audience was large and enthusiastic. The fine concert deserved their appreciation.
For the past few years the Cantata Singers have organized their seasons around a single composer, for example Kurt Weill and Benjamin Britten. This focus and the deep musical knowledge of David Hoose and his colleagues have resulted in marvels of “curated” programming, as some have called it. This season the principal composer, Heinrich Schütz, points the way to the Cantata Singers’ original focus, Johann Sebastian Bach and lays out in rich array of Schütz’s context and legacy throughout western music, from his great contemporary, Claudio Monteverdi, to Boston’s own John Harbison. As in previous years, the programs for all four concerts are contained in one elegant book, which amounts to a convenient introduction to the principle composer, his cultural milieu, and his influence. The premise is basically forward-looking, and the programs are planned to bring out threads which lead up to our present musical environment: hence it is entirely appropriate that historical performance practice is not on the Cantata Singers’ agenda. Chorus and soloists sing with vibrato, and not a single gut string or original instrument is in evidence.
Brahms, always a musical preservationist, revered the liturgical works of Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672), the greatest German Baroque composer before J. S. Bach. When Brahms penned his crepuscular Ein deutsches Requiem, much of his intention – musically and textually – was modeled after careful study of Schütz’s longest work, the Musikalische Exequien (Musical Exequies) of 1636. Both works are titled similarly (for Schütz’s Exequies is “in Form einer teutschen Begräbnis – Missa,” in the form of a German Burial Mass)
The multi-talented Richard Giarusso continues to explore single-mindedly one vitally important and fascinating area in music—the relationship between music and text. Last summer he offered an original and moving interpretation on Franz Schubert’s Schwanengesang, and, before he goes on to Die Winterreise this coming summer, he has given us an all-too-rare opportunity to hear perhaps the most sophisticated and eloquent fusion of text and music before Schubert, Heinrich Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien, a Lutheran funeral Mass to German texts, which Schütz wrote for the funeral of Prince Heinrich Posthumus Reuss, a member of the ruling family of the region in which Schütz was born. The eleven participating singers of the Aoede Consort (based in Troy, New York) and Giarusso’s direction were superb, but first, I’d like to provide some background.