musica Dei donum
Johann Adolf HASSE (1699 - 1783): "Sonatas and Trio Sonatas"
rec: October 24 - 28, 2001, Cologne, Studio Deutschlandfunk
Chandos - CHAN0711 (© 2004) (66'15")
Sonata for chalumeau, oboe, bassoon and bc in F;
Sonata for oboe and bc in G ;
Sonata for violin and bc in e minor, op. 5,5 ;
Trio Sonata for oboe, violin and bc in C;
Trio Sonata for oboe, violin and bc in d minor;
Trio Sonata for oboe, violin and bc in F
Alessandro Piqué, oboe;
Christian Leitherer, chalumeau;
Margarete Adorf, violin;
Ilze Grudule, cello;
Sergio Azzolini, bassoon;
Christoph Lehmann, harpsichord, organ
 Solos op. 2, 1740;
 Solos op. 5, 1744)
Johann Adolf Hasse was one of the most prominent composers of music for the theatre in Europe during the about half a century before Gluck initiated the opera reform. He was widely admired for the smoothness and elegance of his melodic writing. He composed a very large number of theatrical works as the worklist in New Grove shows. In comparison the number of instrumental works is rather limited. He wrote much more, as Charles Burney reported: "The duets, the trios, the quartets, and the concerts for instruments were so many that he himself would not have been able to recognize them when listening or looking at them". The publishing house Breitkopf in Leipzig had collected most of his chamber music with the aim of publishing Hasse's complete works. Unfortunately Frederick the Great of Prussia bombarded Leipzig during the Seven Years War, and a large part of Hasse's music was destroyed in December 1760. The irony of the fact that it was one of his strongest admirers who was responsible for destroying a large part of his musical output didn't escape Hasse. According to Burney he commented that he was sure that had Frederick had the chance he would have informed him that Leipzig was going to be bombarded, in order to give him the opportunity to save his compositions.
It is also Burney who hits the nail on the head when he describes Hasse's music thus: "In his compositions the intentions of pleasing the ear and of satisfying the intellect is evident, leaving to the vain and the pedantic everything that strikes, stupefies and puzzles." This is exactly the feature of the music on this disc. Don't expect any deep feelings or thoughts here. There are no themes which catch the ear, no striking harmonies, no melodic surprises. This disc just makes for about an hour of musical entertainment.
The three trio sonatas are all from a collection of pieces for two flutes or violins with basso continuo. One of them was found in a manuscript in an adaptation for oboe and violin, which is the version played here. The ensemble decided to adapt the other two trio sonatas in the same way. This is in line with a widespread practice in the 18th century. The oboe sonata comes from a collection of solo sonatas for flute or violin. Originally for violin is the sonata in e minor, the fifth from the Solos op. 5, published in London in 1744. This is the only sonata which delivers a little more than just entertainment.
The most striking piece as far as its scoring is concerned is the quartet for chalumeau, oboe, bassoon and bc in F. In particular the part of the chalumeau is remarkable, as the instrument was mainly used in orchestral music, but hardly ever in chamber music. Also notable here is the part of the bassoon, which plays the role of an obbligato instrument and supports the harpsichord in the basso continuo as well.
The ensemble Epoca Barocca understands what it takes to entertain the audience. They don't 'pump up' the music and don't make it sound more weightier than it is. The ensemble playing is immaculate, and the choice of tempi convincing. I would have preferred to hear at least one of the trio sonatas in its original scoring, for example with flute and violin. It would have made this disc a little more varied as far as the instrumental colours is concerned.
This disc is certainly not a 'must have', but if one looks for a recording with entertaining music of the 18th century which hasn't been recorded umpteen times before, this is an excellent choice. Apart from that it pays attention to an aspect of a celebrated composer which was largely neglected before.
Johan van Veen (© 2007)