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Vigilius Blasius FAITELLI (1710 - 1768): "Motetten op. 2"

Melanie Hirsch, sopranoa; Ursula Eittinger, contraltob; Michael Kranebitter, bassc
Tiroler Barockinstrumentalisten
Dir: Marian Polin

rec: May 9 - 10, 2016, Stams (A), Stift Stams (Heiligblutkapelle)
Musikmuseum - CD13038 (© 2018) (77'31")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Motetto I de Beata Virgine Maria (Agite! Mortales miseri)a; Motetto II de Beata Virgine Maria (Cui assimilabo te)b; Motetto III de tempore (O amplitudo ingens)a; Motetto IV de tempore (Si consistant adversum me castra)c; Motetto VI de tempore (Quid mihi est in coelo)b; Motetto VII de tempore (Quam sordet mihi terra)a; Motetto VIII de tempore (Peccavi Domino)c

Source: Octo dulcisona modulamina, op. 2, 1752

Ulli Engel, Monika Tóth, violin; Ursula Sandbichler, viola; Anna Tausch, cello; Johannes Gasteiger, violone; David Bergmüller, theorbo; Marian Polin, organ

The label Musikmuseum focuses on the performance of music from Austria, which does not make the headlines. Often even the names of the composers are virtually unknown to music lovers. That certainly goes for Vigilius Blasius Faitelli, to whom the present disc is devoted. To my surprise he has an entry in New Grove, and although the information about him takes only two paragraphs, consisting of no more than seven lines, the author, Elizabeth Roche, indicates that his vocal music is intended for professionals and "are most interesting for the unusually detailed phrase markings which Faitello inserted in the voice parts."

Faitelli was born in Bolzano; it is not known for sure, where and from whom he received his musical education. For most of his life he was in the service of the women's convent in Hall in Tyrol, which had been founded by Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol in the late 1560s, and which existed until its dissolution in 1783. The inhabitants were mostly of aristocratic origin, and therefore it was financially well off and could afford a chapel, directed by a Kapellmeister. In 1747 it was decided to appoint a composer for the convent, and the choice fell on Faitelli, who at the time was active as a tenor and violinist in the parish choir in Bozen. A document of 1747, which includes the duties of the newly appointed composer, says that Faitelli "excels in the Italian manner of singing, which the glorious Abbey wishes to be introduced in its churches (...) according to the especial musical talent and virtuosity given to him by God".

The Italian manner of singing is demonstrated in the motets from Faitelli's Op. 2, which was published in 1752 in St. Gallen. It includes eight motets for a solo voice - soprano, alto or bass - with an ensemble of two violins, viola and basso continuo. These motets are modelled after the Italian motets by the likes of Vivaldi. They open with a recitative, which is followed by the long dacapo aria. Then a short recitative leads to the concluding Alleluia. The liner-notes mention that only one motet (No. 5s, not included here) is different, in that it omits the introductory recitative. However, two of the motets performed here (No. 7 and No. 8) comprise only a recitative and an aria, but have neither a second recitative nor an Alleluia. Does that mean that these motets were recorded incomplete? That would be rather odd, and should have been indicated in the booklet. Obivously I have no access to the scores, and therefore I can't check.

The technical level of these motets is well summed up by Elizabeth Roche in New Grove: "His vocal lines, full of wide leaps, long complicated melismas and chromaticisms, are much too difficult for the average singers at whom most published sacred music was aimed." She suggests that these motets were "evidently written for the castratos at Hall". I don't know on what source this assumption is based; the liner-notes don't discuss performance practice at the convent and what the chapel looked like. However, it is mentioned that Faitelli's works were popular throughout the Catholic imperial territories and in Slovakia.

These motets are unashamedly operatic. The performers are right in adding cadenzas in the arias, although they are not very consistent in this department. Melanie Hirsch and Ursula Eittinger are most convincing in their performances. They add ornamentation, but don't exaggerate. They are not free of vibrato, but they keep it well under control. Michael Kranebitter fortunately avoids it, but his performances are not very operatic (in the good sense of the word). He is a bit too restrained. The same goes for the strings; I would have liked more energetic and dynamically differentiated performances of the instrumental parts. All in all, I feel that more could have been made of these motets.

However, this disc is certainly a nice and interesting addition to the discography, and Faitelli's oeuvre seems well worth being further investigated. He has also written oratorios and masses, and I would like to hear some of these works.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Michael Kranebitter
Tiroler Barockinstrumentalisten

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