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Johann David HEINICHEN (1683 - 1729): "Italian Cantatas & Concertos"

Marie Friederike Schöder, sopranoa; Terry Wey, altob
Batzdorfer Hofkapelle

rec: May 31 - June 2, 2015, Cologne, Funkhaus WDR (Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal)
Accent - ACC 24309 (© 2016) (71'16")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: D
Cover & track-list
Score S 180

Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in g minor (S 237)c; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in D (S 224)d; Intorno a quella rosa (S 171)b; La bella fiamma (S 183)be; Lascia di tormentarmi (S 149)a; Se mai, Tirsi, mio bene (S 180)ab

Katrin Lazar, recorder, bassoon; Xenia Löffler, recorder, oboe (soloa); Rodrigo Gutiérrez, oboe; Daniel Deuter (solod), Beate Voigt, Wolfgang von Kessinger, Martina Rentzsch, Franziska Graefe, violin; Margret Baumgartl, violin, viola; Caroline Kersten, viola; Bernhard Hentrich, cello; Tilman Schmidt, double bass; Stefan Maass, Stephan Rath (soloe), theorbo; Tobias Schade, harpsichord

Johann David Heinichen is one of those composers who appeared on disc and concert programmes long after the beginning of the 'early music movement'. If I am not mistaken it was the set of concertos which were recorded by Reinhard Goebel with his ensemble Musica antiqua Köln which revealed the qualities of Heinichen as a composer of instrumental music. That recording was followed by others and these largely confined themselves to that part of his oeuvre. It was again Goebel who then turned the attention to Heinichen's vocal music, with recordings of his Lamentations of Jeremiah and a Passion oratorio. So far it is mainly the sacred music which has been performed and recorded. That makes the release of the present disc very important as it includes four cantatas of the kind which were very popular in Italy. In fact, listening to them one wouldn't guess they were from the pen of a German composer.

Heinichen was born in Krössuln near Weissenfels. Like his father he entered the Thomasschule in Leipzig where he received lessons at the keyboard from the then Thomaskantor, Johann Kuhnau. He was so impressed by the qualities of his pupil that he asked Heinichen to act as his assistant. Heinichen didn't plan a musical career, though: he studied law at Leipzig University and moved to Weissenfels to start a practice as lawyer. But Johann Philipp Krieger, then Kapellmeister at the court of Duke Johann Georg, encouraged him to compose music for festive occasions at the court. It was the beginning of a career in music: in 1709 he returned to Leipzig, composed several operas and played in the Collegium Musicum which was directed by Telemann. In 1710 Heinichen travelled to Venice, where he came into contact with several famous masters, like Gasparini, Lotti and Vivaldi. In 1712 he paid a visit to Rome, and then returned to Venice.

It seems that he felt very much at home there and quickly made the Italian style his own. The fact that he was commissioned to compose operas attest to that; two from his pen were performed in Venice in 1713 to great success. In 1716 the Saxon Elector Friedrich August visited Venice and heard some of Heinichen's cantatas being performed. He expressed great enthusiasm and didn't hesitate to appoint Heinichen as Kapellmeister at his court in Dresden who took up his job the next year.

Until his death in 1729 he composed a number of sacred works and also many Italian cantatas, according to the work-list in New Grove 63, scored for one or two voices. Four of these have been selected for the present disc; only in one case the year of composition is given. They take us to the imaginary world of Arcadia which is populated by shepherds, shepherdesses and nymphs. It is the ideal world after which the Italian academies called themselves. In such academies chamber cantatas of the kind Heinichen has written were performed. In no way his cantatas are inferior to what was written by Italian composers of the time.

Intorno a quella rosa is for alto, two recorders, two oboes, two violins and bc and consists of two arias embracing a recitative. In the first aria the protagonist compares himself with a flying humming bee; its movements are illustrated by the figures in the strings. In the B part of the second aria he states that he lives and dies for his beloved; the word 'moro' is depicted by chromaticism.

Lascia di tormentarmi is for soprano, two obbligato recorders, two oboes, strings and bc. It opens with a recitative which is followed by an aria where the recorders play a major role; the strings play pizzicato here. Another recitative is followed by a longer aria which is also the most virtuosic of all the arias on this disc. The soprano part includes many wide leaps and brilliant coloratura. There is a strong contrast in affects between the A and the B part.

La bella fiamma is notable for its obbligato part for the theorbo, something which is pretty rare in chamber cantatas. In the second aria it emphasizes its intimate character which is a reflection of the text where the protagonist (alto) says to his beloved: "Suffer in peace, my dear, just as I suffer from my fear". It is telling that this aria concludes with a cadenza, not for the alto but for the theorbo. Bernd Heyder suggests that this part could have been played by Silvius Leopold Weiss, the brilliant lute player who later was to become a member of the Dresden chapel. This cantata dates from 1711 and at that time Weiss was also in Italy in the retinue of a Polish prince.

The disc closes with Se mai, Tirsi, mio bene which is for soprano, alto, two recorders, two oboes, strings and bc. It opens with a sinfonia in three sections and comprises two pairs of recitative and aria, one for each of the two singers, and concludes with a duet. The first recitative follows the sinfonia attacca. The A part of the alto aria closes with a sudden modulation, expressing the text in which the singer refers to his heart as a sacrifice (holocausto è questo core). In the B part of the duet the two singers have the same text: "either I don't live or I live in you". That is illustrated by a parallel motion which turns into a unison.

These cantatas show how well Heinichen has grabbed the features of the Italian style. That also comes to the fore in the Concerto in g minor for oboe, strings and bc which opens the programme. Especially the first movement reminds me of the concertos by Albinoni. The middle movement includes an expressive solo part in which the strings play pizzicato. The closing movement includes a chromatic descending figure. The Concerto in D for violin, strings and bc is much shorter and does sound more 'German' to my ears. In the middle movement (affettuoso) the tutti are again largely confined to pizzicato, and play in unison.

This disc is very interesting as far as the repertoire is concerned. It sheds light on a little-known part of Heinichen's oeuvre. It is served well by the performers in this recording. I had heard Marie Friederike Schöder on a previous disc in some arias and I was not that impressed but here she does a very good job, especially in Lascia di tormentarmi. In the virtuosic closing aria there is much text expression, partly through the colouring of her voice, and she deals impressively with the demanding coloratura. The main point of criticism - here and elsewhere - is that the text is not always clearly understandable. In her aria in Se mai, Tirsi, mio bene she opens the dacapo with virtuosic ornamentation which exceeds the tessitura of her part. That is a bad habit of many recordings, and this is no exception. Terry Wey is probably better known as a member of the renaissance vocal ensemble Cinquecento but he does well as a soloist in different repertoire as in these cantatas. Especially nice is his ornamentation which is well judged and nicely performed. I also should mention that the recitatives are performed here with the right amount of rhythmic freedom.

The ensemble is excellent throughout and the players are well aware of the content of the various arias. Xenia Löffler and Daniel Deuter give fine performances of the solo parts in the two concertos.

This disc is a major addition to the discography. That makes it all the more regrettable that the booklet omits English translations of the lyrics.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

Relevant links:

Marie Friederike Schöder
Terry Wey
Batzdorfer Hofkapelle

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