- Membra Jesu Nostri, cantata in 7 sections for SSATB voices, 2 violins, 5 violas da gamba, violone & continuo, BuxWV 75
Following on the heels of the practically definitive Cantus Cölln performance of Buxtehude's "Membra Jesu Nostri," this Atma Classique disc featuring Les Voix Baroques -- a sort of all-star assemblage of early music vocalists -- has a tough row to hoe. The singing -- as one might expect from talents such as Suzie LeBlanc and Catherine Webster -- is indeed excellent throughout, but there remain two significant problems with this recording, the first being the thin and rather scrawny recording, not helped by what sounds like a rather bare-bones approach to continuo. The second issue is the pacing of the piece, which tends toward the foursquare and rather lacking in flexibility; while that is not the rule in every movement, it is so in spots where flexibility counts, such as the section marked "Ad genua." At times it seems as though this feeling of rigidity is keeping the singers in check, rather than the continuo flowing along with the singing as perhaps it should. Nevertheless, the singing is of such quality that one finds it hard to be altogether dismissive of this Atma Classique album; if you are already well disposed to these vocalists, then you will probably like this album. In any event, you owe it to yourself to hear Buxtehude's choral masterwork at least one time, and this recording is a good one; it's just that the competition on this work is stiff. Were the performance of "Membra Jesu Nostri" here a little less so, it would be more of a contender.