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Upwards of 20 recordings of Buxtehude’s meditative cantata cycle testify to its puissant expressive power. The work contemplates seven parts of Christ’s body on the Cross in seven musically autonomous vocal concertos. They are nevertheless linked by their Latin texts and by the recurrence at the close of each cantata but the seventh of the instrumental concerto with which the cycle begins. By varying the musical colours and the size of ensemble Buxtehude provides the listener with affective contrasts within a loosely formal scheme.

While some ensembles perform the music on a one-to-a-part basis in which the five-strand voices fulfil the function of solo and ripieno this new version prefers a vocal texture of three or four voices for each part. The introductory sonata feels unsettled and tonally a little raw but the performance settles down well with some notably rewarding contributions from the voices. Walter Testolin seems a communicative director able to reach the heart of this emotionally satisfying music, aided and abetted by a sensitive ensemble of singers and instrumentalists.

Nicholas Anderson Read the full review on Agora Classica


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