Polychoral Splendour from the four galleries of the Abbey Church of Muri

The works of Giovanni Gabrieli and Heinrich Schütz on this Audite SACD embody an important historical step toward the emancipation of instrumental music from vocal models during a time of change from Renaissance to Baroque.

The title of the album is “Polychoral Splendour”, and all of the music here would have been written to be performed in a space that could accommodate the physical separation of “choirs” of either instruments or voices. This was what defined the polychoral technique. Various choirs sing or play in alternation, in different combinations, or all at once for magnificent culminations of sound. The effect is glorious, especially when performed in the ideal space, which is a church with multiple choir lofts. This is what we have here, “from the four galleries of the Abbey Church of Muri”.

The Gabrieli selections are predominantly drawn from his Sacrae Symphoniae, and are all for choirs of instruments only. Those by Schütz are all written for combinations of vocal and instrumental choirs. Works on the CD are arranged alternating between the two composers – each Schütz vocal number followed by a Gabrieli instrumental one. It’s programming that works very well. Splendid performances are provided by the vocal ensemble Cappella Murensis and Les Cornets Noirs, an instrumental ensemble made up of brass, strings, and organ.

Four microphones were used to record the album and Audite was very successful at capturing the live acoustic of the church while keeping the sound of the performing forces crisp and clear. As with other recordings of this kind from Audite, the sonics are all that you could ask for. This is a Hybrid Multichannel SDCD, playable on all SACD and CD players.

Album Overview

The young Heinrich Schütz’s four-year sojourn with Giovanni Gabrieli proved to be one of the most fruitful educational journeys to Italy undertaken by German musicians, artists and writers. Following his return, Schütz presented his Psalms of David in 1619: an impressive result of his encounter with the Italian musical style. These Teutsche Psalmen auf Italienische Manier (“German Psalms in the Italian Manner”) are consistently based on the polychoral style with which Schütz had become acquainted in the Venetian tradition of cori spezzati. As first organist of St Mark’s, Venice, Gabrieli included in his compositions the architecture of this ecclesiastical building in a unique way, placing the singers and instrumentalists, who were divided into as many as four choirs, in facing galleries, thus achieving remarkable sonic and spatial effects.

On this recording the Cappella Murensis and the ensemble Les Cornets Noirs make use of the four galleries in the Abbey Church at Muri, following the historic model: in the works for two, three and four choirs, voices and instruments blend with a total of four continuo organs, producing a unique sound. The inclusion of the two large historic Bossart organs (“Epistle” and “Gospel Organ”) as continuo instruments creates an additional dynamic palette. Rather than being constantly present as soloists, the vocal parts are often integrated, as instruments, into the overall sound, thus appearing all the more prominent in solo passages. This supports the compelling contrast between expansive tutti and concertante sections characteristic of this music.

With magnificent Sonatas and Canzonas by Giovanni Gabrieli, Les Cornets Noirs, led by the cornettists Gebhard David and Bork-Frithjof Smith, once more showcase themselves as one of the leading European ensembles in the field of early baroque music.

With Italy in mind, the abbots and master builders designed the octagonal nave of the Abbey Church at Muri with its four galleries especially for polychoral music-making. The Cappella Murensis under its founderJohannes Strobl and Les Cornets Noirs regularly perform here using several choirs spaced widely apart.


Composer: Heinrich Schütz

Heinrich Schütz (8 October, 1585 – 6 November 1672) was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and often considered… read more

Composer: Giovanni Gabrieli

Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554/1557 – 12 August 1612) was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms. … read more

Performer: Johannes Strobl, organ

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Performers: Cappella Murensis

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Performers: Les Cornets Noirs

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