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"Baroque in Hanover - court music"

Ensemble alla polacca

rec: Dec 13 - 17, 2009, Wuppertal, Immanuelskirche
Ars Produktion - ARS 38 076 (© 2010) (66'43")

Charles BABELL (c1636-1716): 8me Suite in c; George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): Conservate, raddopiate, duet (HWV 185); Solitudini care, amata libertà, cantata (HWV 163); Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi, duet (HWV 197); Antonio SARTORIO (1630-1680): E tiranna la speranza, cantata; Agostino STEFFANI (1654-1728): O care catene ch'il piede stringete, duet; Vuol il Ciel ch'io sia legato, duet; Nicolaus Adam STRUNGK (1640-1700): Capriccio della Chiave A; Das Bildnis seiner Verstorbenen kompt ihm im Traum wieder vor; Er scheuet sich nicht das Kammermägdgen Myrtalen zu lieben; Er widerräth der Rhodinis das Closter-Leben; Nacht-Lied; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Sonata for viola da gamba and bc in e minor (TWV 41,e5) [1]

(Sources: [1] Georg Philipp Telemann, Essercizii Musici, 1740)

Iwona Lesniowska-Lubowicz, soprano; Stanislaw Gojny, theorbo, guitar; Paulina Kilarska, harpsichord, organ with: Franz Vitzthum, alto Petr Wagner, viola da gamba

This disc pays attention to music by composers who for some time worked at the court of Hanover, one of the main centres of music in Germany from the mid-17th century until the first decades of the 18th. Among the first composers of repute was Heinrich Schütz, who worked as Kapellmeister from 1639 to 1641. In the following decades there was an increase in the influence of French music. French musicians were attracted, but also Italian masters. The opera Orontea by Cesti was performed in 1678, and in 1689 a new large theatre opened with a performance of Enrico Leone by Agostino Steffani. He directed the opera until 1698.

The composers who acted as Kapellmeister reflect the French and the Italian influence: Antonio Sartorio from 1666 to 1675, the French oboist Jean-Baptiste Farinel from 1695 to 1710, who was succeeded by George Frideric Handel. Two years later Handel left for London and didn't return. In 1714 Duke Georg Ludwig became King George I of England, and his departure led to a decline of the chapel in Hanover.

The selection of composers for this disc mainly reflects the Italian influence in Hanover. Steffani composed at least eight operas for Hanover, but he was especially famous for his chamber duets. Two of them have been recorded here: Vuol il ciel and O care catene. Handel also wrote a number of duets, most of which were composed during his stay in Hanover. We hear Conservate, raddopiate and the better-known Tanti strali. Also included is his cantata Solitudini care, amata libertà which is from a later date and was written in London. Antonio Sartorio is represented with one very short cantata, E tiranna la speranza, which lasts less than two minutes, and is not more than a single aria.

The 8me Suite in c minor by Charles Babell is the only specimen of the French style at the court of Hanover. The composer is a rather unknown quantity, in contrast to his son William who was active in England as a harpsichord virtuoso. He arranged many arias from operas by Handel for the harpsichord. His father, who was of French birth and a professional bassoonist, did the same, when he arranged pieces by the likes of Lully and Charpentier for keyboard, probably as teaching material for William. Charles has no entry in New Grove, and the liner notes don't tell when he worked in Hanover. The German encyclopedia Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart states that he worked as a windplayer at the court from 1688 to 1690 (*). The harpsichord suite recorded here is not authenticated; it is just attributed to Babell.

Not only foreigners were attracted to the court, also German composers like Clamor Heinrich Abel - grandfather of Carl Friedrich Abel - and Nicolaus Adam Strungk. His father was the famous organist Delphin Strungk. He worked in Hamburg and composed several operas, which he continued to do after his move to Hanover. He also wrote German strophic songs, and four of them - all for voice with basso continuo - are recorded here.

Lastly Telemann: he never had any position at the court, but when he was at the Gymnasium in Hildesheim, from 1697 to 1701, he regularly visited Hanover and here he became acquainted with the French style. The Sonata in e minor for viola da gamba and bc is from his collection Essercizii Musici. It is a specimen of the mixture of Italian and French elements which was preferred by most German composers of his time.

Not long ago I reviewed "Baroque in Poland" with this ensemble, which consists of instrumental and sacred vocal music. I was impressed about the technical quality as well as the interpretation. This disc shows that the secular vocal music comes off equally well. Iwona Lesniowska-Lubowicz masters the Italian-style coloraturas with impressive ease. The text expression is effective and there is tasteful ornamentation to the vocal lines. The cooperation with Franz Vitzthum is immaculate: their voices blend perfectly and they are truly congenial partners. Vitzthum delivers some nice contributions of his own in the four songs by Strungk. This is definitely a composer to explore further. The instrumentalists provide excellent support, and Petr Wagner gives a good account of Telemann's Sonata in e minor. Paulina Kilarska's performance of Babell's suite is stylish, with some rubato and a subtle application of notes inégales.

All in all, this is again an interesting and musically captivating disc by the Ensemble alla polacca. The fact that it contains several pieces which probably have never been recorded before, makes this disc the more worthwhile. The liner notes are to the point, and all lyrics are printed in the original language as well as an English translation.

(*) MGG2, Vol. 1, p 1250. I would like to thank Dr. Martin A. Lobeck (Morsbach, Germany) for providing me with this information.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

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