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Two fascinating discs of Lutheran baroque material from Northern Europe impress in different ways. Ostsee, from the superb Trondheim Barokk, explores composers associated with the Baltic in its heyday as the ‘Mediterranean of the North’. If Bertouch, Theile and Vierdanck are new names to you, this clutch of solo cantatas could hardly be a better way to get acquainted. Sparing, plangently piquant scorings for strings and continuo delicately tickle the ear, supported by a gorgeously toned chamber organ, and three outstanding, expressive voices, sounding luminously immediate in a recording of winsome warmth and breadth. Buxtehude, J.C. Bach, Schmelzer, Kuhnau and Bruhns may be less obscure but the captivating works in The Heart’s Refuge, a finely honed programme from Canadian groups Theatre of Early Music and Schola Cantorum, are rare. Daniel Taylor’s well-drilled, technically much-more-than-competent student choir responds readily to expressive demands. There are top-drawer instrumental contributions and, together with an accomplished pack of soloists, they make an utterly convincing case. Both discs are great ambassadors for the pre-J.S. Bach generation of composers from whom there are so many treasures still to display.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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