Magnificat - Schütz: Cantiones sacrae - The Observer
Among the neglected figures of the musical past, one of the greatest is the 17th-century German composer Heinrich Schütz. He is often portrayed as a somewhat severe figure who lived through the horrors of the thirty years’ war and wrote austere Passion settings that foreshadowed Bach. But the music he composed over his remarkable 87-year life is full of vivid colour and invention, some of it learned in Italy, much of it born of his own powerfully spiritual response to the texts he set. There are big polychoral motets, which were memorably revived at the very beginning of the early music movement in this country by Roger Norrington and his Schütz Choir. Now the smaller four-voice Cantiones sacrae, Op 4 – 40 motets gathered together when Schütz was 40 – are superbly realised on a new recording by Magnificat under Philip Cave (Linn). The precision and agility of the ensemble is astounding, with intricate harmonic movement sharply characterised and captured. Gentle continuo support grounds the music while Amy Haworth’s soprano flies above the textures.