Lying down with Stax phones 3.
Jan Dismas ZELENKA: Responsoria pro hebdomada sancta (1723). Lumen Valo: Titta Lampela, Tuuli Lindeberg (sop), Teppo Lampela, Rikka Noreila (alt), Jukka Heroja, Kari Turunen (ten), Juha Suomalainen, Ahti Viluksela (bs); Assi Karttunen (org), Ville Sirviö (Baroque cello). Alba NCD 14:1-2 (2 CDs) (http://www.alba.fi/).
Recorded in 1999 and still around, this set of 27 Passion Week Responsoria was the third and last Lumen Valo release for Alba, before forming their own label, Sigillum. Their initial efforts — Mary in the Land of Snow and Light (1996) and Victoria’s Tenebrae (1997) — hold up but broke no new ground. Like viol-consort renditions of The Art of Fugue, this Zelenka never existed: Accompaniment is just organ and solo cello, not quite Renaissance yet revealing his mastery of counterpoint.
Lumen Valo stresses light (in their very name), moderation, careful balances. In music of such finish, following a single part can help. For me, it’s most often the altos. Their attacks (“The powerful gathered together against me”) sting, but whether laid bare in imitative counterpoint or in unison, the entire group coheres. That descending arc on Holy Saturday is subtly managed — “I am counted among those that go down to the depths.” At the close, the church would have been submerged in darkness.
Zelenka authority David K. Nelson concluded, “The result is spiritually persuasive.”
A bigger performance in true Baroque style would be Collegium 1704 and Collegium Vocale 1704 / Václav Luks, on Accent ACC 24259 (2 CDs). It should be heard, but my support for Lumen Valo’s austere angle is undented. (Zelenka stipulated no more than eight singers total, the Lumen Valo size.)
Studying the plainchant Responsoria may bring rewards. Solesmes has put the three days on as many discs (SNo3).
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Bryston BCD-1 player (2008)