Basso Stephan MacLeod explores the depths of his voice as well as the emotional depths of these 'sacred' cantatas by the 17th C German composers Nikolaus Bruhns, Franz Tunder, Dietrich Buxtehude, and Johann Cristoph Bach, the uncle of Johann Sebastian. Bruhns (1665-1697) was the "rising star" of North German music until his early death. Tunder (1614-1667) was Buxtehude's predecessor and father-in-law in Lübeck. Buxtehude (1637-1707) was the composer/organist whom the young JS Bach walked across all Germany to meet. Also included on this CD are two instrumental pieces by Dietrich Becker. All of these composers were organists by training and profession. All of them had reason to "cry out from the depths" -- De profundis clamavi ad te Domine, Psalm 129 -- of Germany during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and its prolonged aftermath. All were devout Lutherans whose musical activities were centered in churches. All of them were highly influenced by the compositions of Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), the most revered composer of his long generation; thus they were all important 'transmitters' of Schütz's legacy to JS Bach, Telemann, and other masters of the 18th C.
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.