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Christina Pluhar, L'Arpeggiata

Himmelsmusik (‘heavenly music'), a programme of sacred songs and cantatas by German composers of the 17th century, presents a striking contrast with the previous Erato album from Christina Pluhar and her ensemble L'Arpeggiata: Händel Goes Wild.

Himmelsmusik sees Pluhar taking a more sober and traditionally scholarly approach. She and L'Arpeggiata are joined by star countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and the distinguished Belgian soprano Céline Scheen in a programme that includes the celebrated lamento ‘Ach, dass ich Wassers gnug hätte' by Johann Christoph Bach (born over 40 years before his relative Johann Sebastian), Heinrich Schütz’s ‘Erbarm Dich mein, o Herre Gott' and prompts discovery of works by such lesser-known figures as Johann Theile, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, Christian Ritter and Franz Tunder. An instrumental piece by the Verona-born Antonio Bertali highlights the influence of Italian music on German composers of the time. 


The celebrated Baroque harpist and theorbo player (a type of lute) Christina Pluhar is a favourite of Readings. She has consistently released superb albums bringing a new life to early European music. With her ensemble, L’Arpeggiata, she has released another peek into the musical world of the seventeenth century. In their Himmelsmusik, or ‘Heavenly Music’, they are featuring sacred works exclusively from Germany, including a piece by the great uncle of the famous J.S. Bach himself. It is said that Johann Christoph Bach, as the superior composer in the family, would have been given custody of young Johann Sebastian if only he hadn’t been so terrible with money!

What is particularly interesting about this album though is that a plethora of lesser-known composers from the period are featured. As I listened to the album, I couldn’t understand why they had been allowed to languish unknown for all this time. Each piece was interesting in its own right, and it’s easy to see why Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata chose these pieces to perform. Their assured performances and superstar countertenor Phillippe Jaroussky and soprano Celine Scheen are both musical in their commitment to each phrase.

Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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