Schneider: Christus das Kind - Lüken
Ars Produktion ARS 38 353
Classical - Vocal
Schneider: Christus das Kind
Dorothea Brandt (soprano)
Elvira Bill (alto)
Santiago Sánchez (tenor)
Christoph Scheeben (bass)
Alexander Lüken (conductor)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - September 19, 2022
Could it be that, with a view to all those believing that they have already whatever is available for the forthcoming Christian sacred season, ARS recorded the Oratorio ‘Christus das Kind’ by the hardly known German composer, Friedrich Schneider, to widen the choice for a welcome addition? If so, this release arrives at the right moment.
The next question for many, in particular those outside the German orbit, would then be: Who is Herr Schneider? Being a prolific composer in the style of Haydn, he composed some 15 oratorios, and a whole lot more (i.e. 23 symphonies, 7 piano concerti, 7 operas, and 42 piano sonatas, to name but some of his total output!). Sadly, most of it is forgotten. Two of his symphonies can be found on the German CPO label, though in RBCD only.
As mentioned in the detailed liner notes (Our thanks go to Dominik Höink and J. Cornelis de Vos) Christus das Kind (Christ the Child) is not about the birth of Christ, but written as a part of a projected 4-part cycle about his life, beginning with the oratorio Jesu Geburt (The Birth of Jesus). However, research reveals (For German readers: “Zwar hat Schneider seinen ursprünglichen Plan einer Tetralogie nicht realisiert, jedoch sind immerhin drei vollständige Oratorien entstanden, die eine zusammenhängende Trilogie bilden Christus das Kind, Christus der Meister, Christus der Erlöser”) that it has replaced part one and may, therefore, and despite not having been written with a specific bearing on Christmas, serve that purpose.
On the other hand, the oratorio The Birth of Christ is nonetheless listed elsewhere as one of Schneider’s compositions, thus complicating matters for non-scholars. Be that as it may, for us, music lovers, we will happily leave that to the experts, enjoying the music here on offer instead.
Although neither choir nor orchestra will be familiar to global ears, I was pleased to ascertain that the quality of singing and playing is of an admirable level, suiting the music very well. Varied in its three-part concept, the oratorio typically is the work of a craftsman. The performance, too, is well-balanced, for which the conductor, Alexander Lüken, may claim all the plaudits, and share them with his Kantorei Barmen-Gemarke, and the musicians of the Wuppertal Symphony in equal measure. The partly international solo cast is likewise well equipped for the job, with some beautiful lyrical voices, and for completeness’ sake: The oratorio demands the participation of children’s voices. They were recruited from guests and members of the Jungen Kammerchores from Cologne. All in all a remarkable production in the good old traditional German style.
Schneider’s oratorio may not quite be at the level of, say Haydn’s Schöpfung, but if that is something that appeals to you, you will find much to enjoy and discover in this ARS release. I at least was pleasantly surprised.
Original German texts are provided.
The recording is a world premiere and has been ‘created’ with external financial support in Wuppertal’s Cultural Centre Immanuel in traditionally rich ARS surround for which Manfred Schumacher will no doubt gladly accept our gratitude.
You may want to consider giving this to someone who has already everything to musically cover X-Mass but is nonetheless still on the lookout for more and new material to underscore the enchantment of this year’s sacred season.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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