Luther is famous for saying the devil had all the best tunes. It could be argued that the devil was an equal opportunities tempter, for as this disc demonstrates, it was not only worldly Catholics who became intrigued with the Song of Songs, the Bible’s erotic book, but upstanding Protestant composers, such as the prolific Melchior Franck and Johann Hermann Schein. Franck’s Geistliche Gesäng und Melodeyen of 1608 even came with a parental advisory, declaring the text unsuitable for children, yet still claiming his 19 settings “can be performed and used in honour of God and holy wedlock”.
Franck’s music reflects the emerging Italian style of the period, complete with plenty of evocative word-painting. While not hitting the heady heights of Monteverdi, his music is still engaging, especially in these attractive performances by Swiss vocal and instrumental consort, Voces Suaves. In addition to nine settings from Franck’s 1608 collection, there are eight Schein settings from the 1620s. Of particular note are two works by Palestrina who had produced his own settings of the Song of Songs some 20 years before. These were subsequently embellished by Bassano and Zenobi. Cornettist, William Dongois gives an impassioned performance of his own reconstruction of the latter. The devil may have had the best tunes, but the Good Book had one of the best texts.
Composer: Franck, Schein
Performer: Voces Suaves/Bötticher
Catalogue Number: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi