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Johann Georg REUTTER (1708 - 1772): "Arie & Sinfonie"

Olivia Vermeulen, mezzo-sopranoa; Hannes Rux, trumpetb; Florian Deuter, violinc; Elisabeth Seitz, dulcimera
Nuovo Aspetto

rec: Nov 23 - 26, 2011, Cologne, WDR Funkhaus
Accent - ACC 24275 (© 2012) (65'15")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Alcide (Soletto al mio caro)a; Alessandro il Grande (Dal nostro nuovo aspetto)a; Archidamia (Dura legge, aria)a; Concerto per il clarino in Db; La Betulia Liberata (Del pari infecondaa; Sinfonia in g minor); La Divina Provvidenza in Ismaele (Fra deserti, aria)a; La Magnanimitą di Alessandro (Venga l'etą, aria)a; Pizzicatoc; Sinfonia in D

Johann Georg Reutter is one of the composers from the 18th century who have remained largely under the radar of performers. Only two trumpet concertos exist in various recordings; otherwise hardly anything is available on disc. The present recording by Nuovo Aspetto changes that drastically, with two independent instrumental works, two instrumental pieces from larger works and a handful of arias from large-scale vocal compositions. The latter bear witness to what is the main part of his oeuvre: oratorios and operas which he composed mostly for the imperial court in Vienna. If you look around to find what is available watch out: there is some confusion about the identity of the composer. At ArkivMusic, for instance, you will find the trumpet concertos under Georg Reutter and under Karl Georg Reutter. The former is the father of the composer who is the subject of this disc; he is mainly known for some keyboard pieces, and various sacred works in polyphonic style may have been written by him as well. The composer of the music on this disc is Johann Adam Joseph Karl Georg (von) Reutter, called Georg Reutter jr in the liner-notes.

Reutter sr was organist at the imperial court in Vienna, and from him Georg jr received his first music lessons. These were followed by a period of study with Antonio Caldara who was deputy Kapellmeister under Johann Joseph Fux. Various attempts to become court organist failed, as he was rejected by Fux. In 1729/30 he stayed in Italy, and after his return he was appointed court composer. In the next decade he developed into the leading composer of music for the theatre and oratorios. When his father died in 1738 he succeeded him as Kapellmeister of the Stephansdom; in this capacity he was also in charge of the choir school, to which belonged the Haydn brothers. Following the death of Fux Reutter became increasingly influential at the court, first as assistant of the Kapellmeister Predieri, later as second Kapellmeister and finally, from 1769 as court Kapellmeister. Since the late 1730s he turned his attention to church music, and around 1750 he was the leading composer of church music in Vienna. Because of various military conflicts the court was forced to reduce the budget for its musical establishment, and the number of musicians was strongly reduced. Moreover, since 1749 the empress Maria Theresia ordered church music to be performed in the style of the Cappella Sistina in Rome, without instruments. This was under the influence of the papal encyclical Annus qui.

The main part of the programme of this disc sheds light on Reutter's activities as a composer of oratorios and operas. The arias are especially interesting because of the participation of the dulcimer. This instrument was held in high esteem at the Viennese court until the 1760s. At the time Reutter composed his large-scale vocal works the court employed two highly-skilled players: Maximilian Hellmann (1702-1763) and his pupil Johann Baptist Gumpenhueber (1710-1785) who both went to Dresden to study with the main exponent of the dulcimer, Pantaleon Hebenstreit. In the arias which have been selected for this disc, the dulcimer plays an extended role as an obbligato instrument, often playing the thematic material in an aria before the voice enters, or imitating and further developing the vocal line. The arias demonstrate that Reutter was an excellent composer for the voice and was able to effectively express a text in music. A fine example of his art is 'Fra deserti' from La Divina Provvidenza in Ismaele which speaks about "uncertain steps" and the protagonist "wandering" which is illustrated in the melodic line of the dulcimer and the staccato playing of the strings. These arias whet the appetite for Reutter's vocal works and one can only hope that some day a complete oratorio or opera will be recorded.

The instrumental pieces are mostly rather short. Pizzicato is a remarkable piece which is preserved as an independent work, but was probably originally part of a larger composition. It is a piece for solo violin with strings and bc. The liner-notes state that the Concerto per il clarino can be heard here in a "new version". It is not explained what the reason is and whether this is from a historical source or a version created for this recording. It requires a skilled performer and bears witness to the high standard of playing at the court in Vienna.

This disc is a compelling portrait of a little-known and underrated composer. It proves that he deserves more attention, We can be thankful for what is offered here. Olivia Vermeulen is a very convincing soloist in the arias, moving with ease through the ranges of her voice and meeting the considerable requirements of these arias with apparent ease. A little less vibrato would have been desirable. Elisabeth Seitz deserves special mention for her brilliant playing of the dulcimer. Hannes Rux and Florian Deuter are at the same level on the trumpet and the violin respectively. The whole ensemble deserves praise for the interpretation and for the imaginative programming of this disc. I hope that they will further delve into Reutter's oeuvre.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Olivia Vermeulen
Nuovo Aspetto

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