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"Paroles de Vents"

Johannette Zomer, soprano; Britta Schwarz, contralto; Guy De Mey, tenor; Cornelius Hauptmann, bass
Arsys Bourgogne; Ensemble Zefiro
Dir: Pierro Cao

rec: Sept 22, 2006 (live), Ambronay, Abbaye
Ambronay Éditions - AMY011 (© 2007) (57'12")

Georg DRUSCHETZKY (1745-1819): Mass in B flata; Johann Michael HAYDN (1737-1806): Missa Sancti Hieronymi (MH 254)b

Paolo Grazzi, Emiliano Rodolfib, Clémentine Humeaub, oboe I; Alfredo Bernardini, Guido Campanb, Rei Ishikazab, oboe II; Daniele Latini, Danilo Zauli, clarineta; Francesco Meucci, Gabriele Rochetti, horna; Julien Lucchi, Aurélie Serre, Fabien Dornik, tromboneb; Giorgio Mandolesi, Maurizio Barigione, bassoon; Giancarlo de Frenza, double bassb; Luca Guglielmi, organb

This disc is something special as it presents music which is rather uncommon as far as the scoring is concerned. The starting point was the Missa Sancti Hieronymi by Johann Michael Haydn, which is scored for 4 solo voices, choir, 2 solo oboes, 2 ripieno oboes, 2 bassoons, 3 double basses and organ. It was chosen as part of a programme whose principal theme should be the juxtaposition of choir and wind instruments. The second work was difficult to find: several works for the same kind of scoring from this period are preserved in incomplete form. At the end the Mass in B flat by Druschetzky was chosen, in which soloists and choir are supported by a classical wind ensemble, the Harmonie, consisting here of two oboes, two clarinets, 2 horns and 2 bassoons.

The way the vocal and instrumental parts are treated is quite different. Johann Michael Haydn's Mass is stylistically rooted in the baroque era. There is much counterpoint and vocal and instrumental parts are strongly interwoven. The oboe ensemble has a clear vocal quality, and the oboe parts underline the statement of Alfredo Bernardini in the booklet that the oboe always has been associated with the human voice.

The sound of six oboes and 2 bassoons is something special in itself, but here the choir and the wind instruments brilliantly blend and - in addition to the qualities of the score itself - this leads to a magnificent performance which makes a great impression. It again shows that Johann Michael Haydn has written first-rate music which is still largely underestimated. Leopold Mozart had attended the first performance and wrote a glowing report to his son: "I enjoyed it immensely; the grouping of six oboes, two bassoons, three double basses and organ was so evocative of the human voice (...). It all seemed too short, although the work was superbly written. Everything flowed, and the fugues are the work of a master." In this 'oboe mass', as Haydn called it himself, the parts for double basses - which play colla parte in the tutti - are performed on three trombones.

The Mass in B flat by Druschetzky is quite different, in particular because the wind ensemble is more independent from the vocal forces. Druschetzky was from West Bohemia and studied the oboe with Antonio Besozzi, first oboist in the royal chapel in Dresden. He became a grenadier in the 50th Infantry regiment which brought him among others in Vienna and Linz. In 1777 he became drummer in the public service of Upper Austria in Linz. He moved to Vienna in 1783 and about three years later he entered the service of Count Anton Grassalkovics in Bratislava (then called Pressburg), where he directed the wind band for which he also wrote music. By 1802 he was music director and composer for the wind octet of Archduke Joseph Anton Johann in Budapest.

A large part of his music consists of Harmoniemusik, and so the scoring of his Mass in B flat doesn't surprise. The ensemble is really treated as a wind band, which has much more independence than the oboe band in Haydn's mass. The sound of the wind ensemble has also much more presence because of the participation of two clarinets which don't blend as naturally with voices as oboes. So the choir and the wind are more sounding like a choir with an orchestra and the parts are less integrated. Nevertheless Pierre Cao and the performers manage to bring about a coherent interpretation, and this mass turns out to be a very nice work.

Even so, for me the mass by Johann Michael Haydn is the real discovery of this disc, and as it is given a splendid performance here I can only recommend it to anyone interested in music of the classical period. In recent years more attention has been given to his oeuvre, and hopefully this is going to continue. Druschetzky seems interesting to be explored by wind bands looking for less obvious repertoire than the works of Mozart and the many arrangements of his music.

The booklet contains an interview with Pierre Cao, Alfredo Bernardini and Paolo Grazzi as well as the lyrics with an English translation. There is also information about the instruments used in this recording - bravo!

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

Arsys Bourgogne
Ensemble Zefiro

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