Reviews

GMCD 7177 – Christ Ascended

The Choir of Gonville & Caius College Cambridge, Geoffrey Webber – Director

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Choir and Organ July/August 2000



Interesting selection of works, both choral and solo organ, by composers working in the Zurich Protestant tradition in the first half of the 20th century, those represented being Paul Müller-Zurich, Hans Schaeuble, Meinrad Schütter, Adolf Brunner, Josef Scheel and Othmar Schoek. The musical language is predominantly that of 1930s Austro-German neo-classical, indeed Schütter was a pupil of Hindermith, but the late-romantic language of Reger aksi cines to the fore, particularly in the works of Scheel and Schoek. However, despite the similarity of outlook of the composers represented this varied CD with satisfying performances throughout.

The Organ

Zwingli banned the organ in the early sixteenth century in Switzerland and it was not until the early years of the last century that organ and choral music within the church began to flourish. There was still a preponderance of compositions for unaccompanied male chorus but the range of styles and texts set expanded rapidly.

This new CD includes works by Paul Müller-Zürich, Hans Schaeuble, Meinrad Schütter, Adolf Brunner, Josef Scheel and Othmar Schoeck, and gives a very fine introduction to the range of work available.  There are a number of works for solo organ included in the collection all of which were recorded on the Binns organ in the chapel of Queen’s College, Cambridge.

Jeremy Binns plays Paul Müller-Zürich’s conventional but pleasing Passacaglia and the dark Toccata III with its unexpected slow passages. He is also the soloist in the original version for choir and organ of Othmar Schoeck’s Zu einer Konfirmation – a work which would not be out of place in the company of Parry and Stanford, odd given the discrepancy of almost a century.

Timothy Uglow plays Meinrad Schütter’s Partita on Mit einem Gott ich zur Ruh  and the delicate Adorazione dei Pastori. Josef Scheel’s  meatier and more substantial Fantasie-Sonate is probably the most impressive work on the recording but all are worth   serious consideration.


CLASSIC CD MAY 2000

The profile of Gonville and Caius College Choir on disc has been overshadowed by the better-known Cambridge mixed choirs of Trinity and Clare, but Geoffrey Webber’s well-trained singers need fear no comparison. Caius has instead made a name for itself by concentrating on neglected areas of the repertoire, with recordings of music by Wood, Rheinberger, Janácek, Wesley and Child, among others. Here they reach completely uncharted waters, with two discs of church music from Switzerland – every piece here is a recorded premiere.

Church reformer Huldrych Zwingli had banned singing and organs from Zurich churches in 1524.This hiatus – fortunately temporary – cast a shadow over Swiss liturgical music right up to the twentieth century.

The first disc covers the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, with music by the unknowns Johannes Schmidlin, Johann Jakob Walder, and Johann Caspar Bachofen. The major works are a 1759 funeral cantata for Johannes Fries, major of Zurich, by Schmidlin and a selection of Renaissance organ pieces from the Clemens Hör tablature. The capable vocal soloists are drawn from the choir, and have just the right artless style for this provincial repertoire.

Christ Ascended, the more interesting disc of the two, mixes organ and choral music by six twentieth-century Swiss composers, of whom only Othmar Schoeck is at all well known. The style is principally a warm-toned Hindemithian neo-classicism – in the case of the talented Hans Schaeuble’s Five Choruses of 1936, a sound-world not a million miles away from that of Hebert Howells. This disc makes an attractive programme in its own right.
Francis Knights

Performance

Sound

Verdict: Caius illuminate yet another overlooked musical byway


CHRIST ASCENDED

Zwingli banned the organ in the early sixteenth century in Switzerland and it was not until the early years of the last century that organ and choral music within the church began to flourish. There was still a preponderance of compositions for unaccompanied male chorus but the range of styles and texts set expanded rapidly.

This new CD includes works by Paul Müller-Zürich, Hans Schaeuble, Meinrad Schütter, Adolf Brunner, Josef Scheel and Othmar Schoeck, and gives a very fine introduction to the range of work available.  There are a number of works for solo organ included in the collection all of which were recorded on the Binns organ in the chapel of Queen’s College, Cambridge.

Jeremy Binns plays Paul Müller-Zürich’s conventional but pleasing Passacaglia and the dark Toccata III with its unexpected slow passages. He is also the soloist in the original version for choir and organ of Othmar Schoeck’s Zu einer Konfirmation – a work which would not be out of place in the company of Parry and Stanford, odd given the discrepancy of almost a century.

Timothy Uglow plays Meinrad Schütter’s Partita on Mit einem Gott ich zur Ruh  and the delicate Adorazione dei Pastori. Josef Scheel’s  meatier and more substantial Fantasie-Sonate is probably the most impressive work on the recording but all are worth  serious consideration.