Buxtehude: Membra Jesu Nostri (Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford)
John Mark Ainsley (Tenor); Robin Blaze (Counter-tenor); Giles Underwood (Bass);
This is a significant new CD release, launching an exciting new partnership between Opus Arte and Magdalen College Choir, Oxford, under its director Daniel Hyde.
The repertoire is niche but well-known, and the two soloists are distinguished names in the choral world. The choir has been under the directorship of Daniel Hyde for several years, during which time it has developed a strong ‘European’ choral sound, within the tradition of an all-male ensemble (that is, with boy trebles).
The cycle of seven cantatas, scored for SSATB and titled ‘Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima’ (The most holy limbs of our suffering Jesus), is a series of musical meditations on the limbs of Christ on the Cross, and was written in 1680 by the German mid-baroque composer, Dieterich Buxtehude (c1637-1707). It is considered the first Lutheran oratorio.
"Membra Jesu Nostri is a cycle of seven cantatas, each contemplating a part of Jesus on the cross: feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart and face. John Mark Ainsley, Robin Blaze and Giles Underwood owe their careers to the time they spent in this choir and return to sing with an intensity suitable to the intimately sensuous nature of the work, ably supported by the choir and its particularly fine trebles. String playing is outstanding throughout, with the viol consort Phantasm deliciously taut and sinewy in the lovely sixth cantata, Upon the Heart." (The Observer ★★★★★)
"This 17th-century seven-part meditation on Christ on the Cross is by no means all gloom. The stunning music by Dieterich Buxtehude, JS Bach's hero, has a surprising lilt, grace and sensuality as well as a gentle spirituality. With excellent boy trebles singing the soprano solos and the sinuous viols of Phantasm supplying supple sonatas, the continental-sounding choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, give a vibrant, appealing performance under Daniel Hyde." (The Times ★★★★)
"Director of Music Daniel Hyde finds all the beauty and pain in this spellbinding sequence, an hour of listening that is both of the moment and utterly timeless." (The Independent ★★★★★)