De Profundis: Bach, Bruhns, Buxtehude & Tunder
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In the late seventeenth century, religious music enjoyed a true golden age in north Germany. Although the outstanding works of Buxtehude are better-known today, those of his father in law Franz Tunder and his pupil Nikolaus Bruhns display the same exceptional creative fervor. This program of sacred music for bass voice is bathed in an atmosphere of intense devotion, sometimes tender, sometimes heart-rending. Swiss Bass Stephan MacLeod's concert career began in 1992 when he debuted with Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Cologne. More recently he was lead bass for the Huelgas Ensemble. He can be heard on over 35 CDs, of which many have received important awards.
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Despite his "Mac-" name, Stephan MacLeod was born in Geneva, studied violin and piano in Köln and Lausanne, and launched his performance career as a singer with Musica Antiqua Köln under the director of Reinhard Goebel. Since then, he's performed with almost every conductor of note - Leonhardt, Herreweghe, Kuijken, Junghänel, Bernius, Suzuki, Stubbs, inter alia - and is now a regular with the Ricercar Consort directed by Philippe Pierlot. His artistry can be heard on over fifty CDs.
MacLeod himself has written the English notes include with the CD concerning the role of the organ in the music of this epoch. His notes are quite eloquent. It's the organ that binds the ensemble and structures the music of these cantatas. Naturally it needs to be a "period" organ with the "mean" temperament that was universal in organs until long after the life and death of JS Bach. The organist in this performance is Francis Jacob. Ricarcar Consort, for this recording, was comprised of three bass viols and theorbo in addition to the organ, plus two 'obbligato' violins, played by François Fernandez and Sophie Gent. If the tessitura of the violin seems remarkably high in some passages, don't be surprised; it's a "violino piccolo" -- a smaller violin a third higher in pitch -- played by Fernandez. Such "Terzgeigen" were in common use in Germany throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries; JS Bach even specified the use of a violino piccolo in the First Brandenburg Concerto.
This is an extremely lovely performance of music that's best described as 'profound', both in its emotional sincerity and in its compositional mastery.