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Johann Wilhelm HERTEL (1727 - 1789): "Concerti, Sinfoniae"

Meike Güldenhaupt, oboea; Martin Jopp, violinb; Johanna Seitz, harpc
Dir: Martin Jopp
rec: February 2005, Gießen, Petruskirche
Aeolus - AE-10027 (© 2005) (74'15")

Concerto for harp/harpsichord, strings and bc in Fc; Concerto à 5 for oboe, strings and bc in g minor a; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in B flatb; Sinfonia à 4 in F; Sinfonia à 4 in A

Johann Wilhelm Hertel doesn't appear very frequently on the concert programmes of today's baroque orchestras. And only a rather small part of his oeuvre has been recorded. It is mostly his trumpet concertos which have been given attention to. And as far as I know period instrument ensembles haven't recorded any of Hertel's works yet. That has changed with the release of this disc with concertos and sinfonias.

Hertel was born as son of Johann Christian Hertel, a well-respected violinist and composer. He received his first music lessons from a pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach, and he accompanied his father already at the age of 12. In 1744 he became violinist and harpsichordist at the court in Strelitz, which was dissolved in 1752. Two years later he was employed at the court in Schwerin, where he stayed until his death, although the court chapel moved to Ludwigslust in 1767. He remained at the service of the court, and concentrated on composition, organising concerts at the court and musical education.

Hertel was a representative of the generation of the sons of Bach. During his time in Strelitz he became acquainted with Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Franz Benda and the Graun brothers. Benda taught him the violin, and Hertel was considered one of Benda's best pupils. He composed sacred and secular vocal music, solo concertos, symphonies, chamber music and keyboard works. His concertos, in particular those for keyboard and for violin, and his symphonies are considered his most important and most original compositions. He also wrote some treatises, one of which about playing the basso continuo.

This disc presents some examples of his output: three solo concertos and two sinfonias. These show the two main features of the musical development in Germany around the middle of the century, Sturm-und-Drang and Empfindsamkeit. The Sturm-und-Drang style is detractable in the Sinfonias and the fast movements of the solo concertos. The violin concerto, for instance, starts with a heavy tremolo in the orchestra, which returns time and again in that movement. The subject of the orchestral part is stormy and contains big leaps. Such leaps are also characteristic for the solo part, in which the violin explores a large part of its tessitura. In all concertos the solo parts are frequently interrupted by strong orchestral interventions.

The slow movements, on the other hand, bear the traces of the Empfindsamkeit. The solo instruments have beautiful melodies to play, which develop over a mostly quiet accompaniment of the strings. In the oboe concerto the lyrical qualities of the solo instrument are impressively explored. Interesting is the harp concerto, one of three concertos which are written for either harp or keyboard. The slow movement ends with a written-out cadenza, and in this concerto Hertel has also written down the ornamentation and given detailed directions about dynamics.

These works by Hertel receive the best possible interpretations here. The use of a historical harp makes this disc especially worthwhile, as not often real historical instruments are used for recordings. Johanna Seitz plays with great sensitivity, and so does Meike Güldenhaupt in the oboe concerto. Martin Jopp deals with the technical requirements of the violin concerto very convincingly, and gives an impressive rhetorical performance of the solo part. The orchestra is brilliant in the tutti in the solo concertos and also gives fine performances of the Sinfonias.

This disc delivers a strong and eloquent plea for the music of Johann Wilhelm Hertel. I hope this recording will not be the last this ensemble devotes to his oeuvre.

Johan van Veen (© 2007)

Relevant links:

Johann Wilhelm Hertel
Main-Barockorchester Frankfurt

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