As I write, the final volume has been issued and Koopman’s latest labour of love has been completed. The job lot on 29 discs has simultaneously been released in a Buxtehude box (which of course is annoying for those of us who have meticulously collected over many years), but if you just want to dip your toe into the Master of Lübeck’s oeuvre you could do worse than pick up a single disc such as this and give it a whirl.
Nothing in the series has been quite so revelatory for me as the unfailingly tuneful vocal works, most of which rarely emerge on disc. This volume comprises the usual mix of arias, cantatas and vocal-concertos, but focuses on the composer’s legendary ‘Abendmusik’ series designed to present religious texts outside of the context of church services as such. Highlights include the joyous Was Frag ich nach der Welt with its Alleluias bouncing along in gigue-time, a hummable Welt, Packe Dich with Dorothee Wohlgemuth and Miriam Feuersinger duetting delightfully on top, and an intricately varied Pange Lingua.
Koopman’s flair for the improvisatory, attention to text and restoration of original keys makes for a highly engaging series of dramatic miniatures. His orchestral forces are superbly sprung, his continuo playing a dream and his soloists generally excellent (despite the demands of the often high keys). The recording is natural with plenty of attention to detail but also a real sense of ecclesiastical space. Glorious.