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Thirty years after Joshua, Johann Adam Hiller published a collection of motets, including his own, from composers never to achieve Handel’s fame: Homilius, Rille, Graun, Penzel, Handl, Reinhold, Fehre, Weiske, and Harrer. It’s pleasant, well-crafted stuff and the Sächsisches Vocalensemble brings an intelligent selection to life in Motetten der Hiller-Sammlung (Carus 83.269) with confident, engaging, word-sensitive a cappella singing. Another delicious Lutheran motet-fest appears in a double CD of music by J.S. Bach’s elder relations: Johann, Johann Christoph, and Johann Michael. BACH is a cornucopia of glorious singing from Vox Luminis, fully living up to their name. Two beautifully recorded CDs, mostly double-choir with organ, include funeral music and motets for Passiontide and Christmas. The quality and grace of the individual voices, bringing a madrigalian word-intensity to all, makes for a brilliant celebration both of Lutheran musical sermonising and the Bach family composing gene.

Which brings us to the main man: Lutheran Masses 1 from Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach Collegium Japan, an SACD of wonderful perspective and detail. These artists are surely the most luminous and refined of all J.S. Bach specialists: with a burning intensity unmarred by the aggression that so often informs Gardiner’s interpretations, Suzuki distils delicate, light-footed, tensile, finely graded performances of spirit-restoring delight: every phrase alight with love – more, please.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing