This is a great collection for anyone interested in the music of the early Protestant church. Ein Fiest Burg spans about 120 years, from the first hymns by Luther through settings by Heinrich Schutz. The disc includes sacred music by Michael Praetorius, Samuel Scheidt, Hermann Schein, Melchior Frank, and others.

The first disc arranges selections according to the liturgical calendar. Many of the tunes may sound familiar — such as Praetorius’ setting of “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen.” Some of these tunes have found their ways into various mainstream Protestant hymnals, and some were incorporated into cantatas (including some by Bach).

The second disc includes the Deutsches Passion by Joachim von Burck, the first such in the German language. The language for the Deutsches Requiem was set by Thomas Selle, Andreas Hammerschmidt, and Heinrich Schutz, all represented here. It was the same text Brahms would later use for his Deutsches Requiem.

The keyword for Luther was simplicity. He wanted music that could be sung by the congregation. It could have been a recipe for blandness. Instead, composers throughout the first century of the Protestant Reformation found new and inventive ways to write.

The program is also thoughtfully organized. Vox Luminis performs some selections a capella, and some with organist Bart Jacobs. Jacobs performs several solo works. Two different organs are used, providing varying the sound even more.

As always, Vox Luminis sings with a seamless blend. Their clear, transparent sound adds to the beauty — and the spirituality — of the music. This is one of the best (and best-sounding) collections of early Protestant music I’ve heard to date.

Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott: Luther and the Music of the Reformation
Vox Luminis; Lionel Meunier; Bart Jacobs
Ricercar RIC 378
2 CD Set