Heirs of the Reformation: Treasures of the Singing Church

Imagine 45 of the greatest Lutheran hymns (okay, a few straight choir selections) from the 17th century, done by well trained musicians, with great instruments.  Now imagine it done in English, with mostly LSB hymn translations.  Now imagine a great booklet describing each piece.

That is Heirs of the Reformation.

This collection is really incredible.  Basically what CPH did with this is take many of the great hymns of the post-reformation period (lots of kernlieder, among others), and make choral settings of them.  Many of the settings themselves are from the 17th and 18th centuries, although there isn’t much Bach (we have that in abundance elsewhere).  But you do get a fair sampling of Vulpius, Hammerschmidt, Praetorius, Hassler, Buxtehude, and many others.  There are a few settings from the 20th century, but mostly they are arrangements of the period.

It is hard for me to describe how much I like this collection.  Lutheran chorales really get a bad rap in so many ways.  Decades of abusive playing have nearly killed them.  But it is not so!  Here you will find fresh, beautiful and vibrant settings of many of the great hymns from our heritage.  Paul Gerhardt is very well represented.  I have particularly enjoyed the double choir setting of Lord Let at Last Thine Angels Come by Hans Leo Hassler.  It is moving and wonderful.

If I have any criticism of this recording, it is that it wasn’t done in a church.  There is a hint of that “recording studio” feel to it occasionally.  This was really my chief criticism of the Martin Luther: Hymns and Ballads collection that CPH put out a few years ago.  It is an occasional annoyance, but the power of the text and the music itself more than overcomes this fault.

This four CD collection has almost four hours of music included.  It costs $45, and is worth every penny.


2 thoughts on “Heirs of the Reformation: Treasures of the Singing Church

  1. I disagree that the studio hints are occasional. There’s no excuse for imposing a studio sound aesthetic on a sacred music recording. There are many terrific sounding sanctuaries throughout out the US and midwest. I can’t get past it. Both sets were near ruined as a result IMO. Yes, perhaps I am too anal but having recorded choral music extensively, there is no excuse for this poor decision.

  2. Well you may be right. I certainly agree that there is no reason for it. There are plenty of glorious churches in nearly ever major city in the US. I expect the reason for the “studio” sound is that some/much of the much is actually assembled post recording. That way they don’t have to try and get everyone there all at once. I expect it is cheaper.

    I will say this, though. I found the “studio” sense in the Martin Luther Hymns and Ballads collection to be distracting enough so that I don’t listen to it. It is not this case with this recording.

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