The fourth album in the 11-disc project retracing the history of choral singing in Europe, by Ensemble ArtChoral and directed by Matthias Maute, is this time devoted to Romantic music (previous releases include Christmas music, late Baroque and Classical). While, at first glance, one might expect a monumental repertoire, inspired by the strongest passions so dear to Romanticism, this is not the case here. Instead, we find entirely a cappella works setting religious texts to music. The result is an atmosphere of meditation and contemplation. The relatively small size of the ArtChoral ensemble (just a few people for each voice) contributes to the calm, uncluttered ambience demanded by the works performed.
This latest instalment in the Art Choral series is in keeping with the others in terms of choice of repertoire. Indeed, these albums feature well-known choral pieces, alongside little gems that are often forgotten or less frequently performed. For example, Bruckner’s well-known Locus iste appears on the album alongside works by Meyerbeer and Rheinberger, as well as songs by Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn. The pieces follow one another magnificently, and we are guided musically by the always accurate and nuanced interpretation of the Ensemble ArtChoral.
This new release should be listened to carefully and quietly, to capture all its subtleties and appreciate it to its full potential. It takes listeners off the beaten track, away from preconceived ideas about Romantic music, and fulfills its mission of introducing them to the history of choral singing.