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Classical Album of the Week: Himmelsmusik, A Little Piece of Early Music Heaven from L'Arpeggiata

May 13, 2019. Himmelsmusik, German for “heavenly music," is the latest project of Austrian theorbo player Christina Pluhar and her early-music ensemble L’Arpeggiata, based in France.

Joined by Belgian soprano Céline Scheen and French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, Pluhar leads her charges in a program of 17th-century instrumental and vocal works rooted in—and pollinated by—influences from cities spanning the northern and southern ends of Europe.

Composers familiar and less known are featured in equal measure in Himmelsmusik, including cousins Johann Christoph and Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as Verona-born violinist Antonio Bertali and Gda?sk-based Crato Bütner. 

In a mesmerizing performance of "O amantissime sponse" by Scheen, an accomplished Bach interpreter, we hear a voice with the clarity, agility, and color that music of this period beckons.

In composing this work, Christian Ritter, active in Germany and Sweden, had adapted the work of an Italian composer Vincenzo Albrici and in doing so demonstrated the remarkable mobility of the musical styles north and south of the Alps.

You can hear Scheen’s ornamentation nimbly decorating the anonymous text, expressing adoration of Jesus as savior and bridegroom, and then culminating in a florid finale.

Listen to L'Arpegiatta with Scheen and Jaroussky perfoming G. F. Handel's "lo t'abbraccio" Rodelinda. This piece is not featured in the album, but it will give you a taste of the ensemble's sound: