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Schumann’s version of Bach’s cantata Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht and it is a revelation. Bach was a source of strength to Schumann, who regarded the earlier composer’s music as an inspiration to the German romantic school, and his version of this cantata was based on an autograph score at the then Berlin Sing-Akademie. For this recording, conductor Aapo Häkkinen employs the orchestral seating lay-out used at the Gewandhaus in 1844, with the choir’s layout reflecting that of the strings. What emerges are lyrically flowing lines that are so different from the usual interpretation of Bach, but very satisfying, with skilful singing and phrasing from soloists and choir bringing unexpected warmth to the performance. The Ballade is a dramatic, magical tale of forbidden love, murder and death, a sort of ‘choral lied’ with orchestration full of romantic ingenuity. The Adventlied is Schumann’s first venture into sacred repertoire from a humanist-religious angle. Set to a text by Friedrich Rückert, it doesn’t quite come off, but was nevertheless an interesting new step for the composer.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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