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"Tiroler Gröstl 1710 - Händel in Innsbruck"

Ensemble Rosarum Flores; Christoph W. Bauer, reciter

rec: July 3 - 5, 2020, Ranggen, Pfarrkirche zum Hl. Magnus
Musikmuseum - CD13051 (© 2020) (74'57")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Carlo Agostino BADIA (1672-1738): Augellin vago e canoro; Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747): Clori svenar mi sento; George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): No se emenderá jamás (HWV 140); Johann Christoph (John Christopher) PEPUSCH (1667-1752): When Love's soft passion; Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725): Il giardino di Amore (Più non m'alletta e piace); Pietro Nicolò SOROSINA (c1645-1732): Sonata a due violini e basso; Silvius Leopold WEISS (1687-1750): La belle Tiroloise

[downloads] anon: Partita a 2 flauti con basso; Gottfried (Godfrey) FINGER (c1660-1730): A Ground; Jakob GREBER (?-1731): Fuori di sua Capanna (Io pur amo); George Frideric HANDEL: Sono liete fortunate (HWV 194)

Andrea Oberparleiter, soprano; Bernd Oliver Fröhlich, alto; Ilse Strauß, recorder; Reinhild Waldek, recorder, harp; Ursula Wykypiel, violin; Kaspar Singer, cello; Wolfgang Praxmarer, archlute, guitar; Marian Polin, harpsichord, organ

The title of this disc may raise questions among those who know nothing about Tirol. I had to search for its meaning too: it refers to a dish popular in Tirol. The subtitle - "Handel in Innsbruck" - may ring a bell only with those who have a thorough knowledge of the composer's biography. When in 1710 he left Italy for Hanover, he spent some time in Innsbruck, at the court of Karl III Philipp of Pfalz-Neuburg, brother of Count Palatine Johann Wilhelm, whom Handel was to visit later. In his pocket he had a letter of recommendation by Ferdinando de' Medici, son of the Grand Duke of Florence. Handel did not stay long, but continued his journey to Hanover.

Karl Philipp was a great lover of music, and prior to his post as Governor in Innsbruck, he had resided in Silesia, where he ruled the dukedoms of Brzeg (Brieg), Liegnitz and Wohlau. At that time he set up a chapel, and among its members were the famous lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss, the violinist Gottfried Finger - who is best-known from his activities in England - and the composer Jakob Greber, who acted as Kapellmeister. Karl Philipp took them with him when he moved to Innsbruck, and there he further expanded his chapel. It resulted in a musical establishment which was so large, that his finances were hardly sufficient.

The programme recorded by the Ensemble Rosarum Flores aims at giving an impression of music life at the court in Innsbruck. That could be quite interesting, but the way it has been worked out is not really convincing. The main reason is that the connection between the music and the Innsbruck court is rather loose or even non-existent.

The programme opens with a curious piece by Handel, a cantata on a Spanish text which he composed in Rome in 1707, probably for a concert at the palace of Cardinal Ruspoli. The second composer is Silvius Leopold Weiss, whose connection to the Innsbruck court is documented, but there are few traces of his musical activities there. It is not even known when exactly he was there. Whether La belle Tiroloise is inspired by his stay in Innsbruck is probably hard to prove.

The third composer is Carlo Agostino Badia, who at the time worked at the imperial court in Vienna. He was a member of the Kaiserliche Hofmusik in Innsbruck, set up by emperor Leopold I in 1666. From 1679 until his death in 1690, Duke Karl V of Lothringia resided in Innsbruck. After his death, his widow Eleonore stayed there and engaged Badia as her court composer. In 1694 Eleonore Maria moved to Vienna. There Badia became court composer at the court of Leopold I himself. Augellin vago e canoro is a cantata for soprano, two recorders and basso continuo. The role of the recorders can be explained from the cantata's content: the fate of a bird, imprisoned in a cage, is lamented, and this is compared with the state of the protagonist who is "wrapped in chains by the cruel Irene".

Then we get a piece by Alessandro Scarlatti, and this is a case of a composer who was never connected to the court in Innsbruck. The reasons that an aria from his serenata Il giardino di amore is included here, are that Badia's wife Anna Maria Lisi in 1691 sang in one of his operas, and that he was, according to Franz Gratl in his liner-notes, a "role model" for Handel. Whether the latter is true is problably debatable. The entry on Handel in New Grove does not mention him anywhere. The connection between Giovanni Bononcini and Innsbruck is also non-existent: he never was there, but he is included here because he was Badia's colleague in Vienna. Gratl calls him a "rival" to Badia, but again this is in no way substantiated. Clori svenar mi sento is a typical specimen of the then popular chamber cantata on a subject from the world of Arcadia, the ideal of the higher echelons of society at the time. The two pairs of recitative and aria are preceded by an instrumental introduction in two sections.

The least-known composer in the programme is Pietro Nicolò Sorosina, who has no entry in New Grove. He was the musical director of the Kaiserliche Hofmusik from 1700 to 1708; in the latter year he resigned under the pressure of complaints about his mistreatment of the choirboys. He moved to Vienna, where he remained until his death. The Sonata a due violini e basso consists of five movements and is played here by recorder and violin.

The inclusion of a piece by Johann Christoph Pepusch is more far-fetched than that of any other. The choice of his cantata When Love's soft passion is inspired by the fact that he married the singer Francesca Margarita de l'Epine, who had been connected to Jakob Greber before. Pepusch has never been in Innsbruck. Greber, about whom very little is known, also worked for some time in England. In 1705 at the latest he was Kapellmeister to Karl Philipp in Silesia. He followed his employer to Innsbruck, where he continued to act as Kapellmeister.

It is rather odd that he is given relatively little attention here. That is to say: an aria from one of his vocal works (Fuori di sua Capanna; the booklet does not mention what kind of work it is) is performed during the reading of a fictitious letter by Handel to Weiss, written and read by Christoph W. Bauer, an Austrian poet, author and publisher. Three other letters are read when music is performed. These pieces are available for listening at the ensemble's website (as mp3, at a bitrate of 160 kbps). The texts are in German, but the booklet includes English translations.

I am rather sceptical about this production. The idea is nice, but the way it has been worked out, does not convince me. I don't know if it could have been done differently; that depends on what is known about the music at Karl Philipp's court in the years around Handel's visit. The reading of four fictitious letters is something that will not make this disc very attractive to non-German speakers. Even German audiences might skip those tracks, when listening to this disc for a second time. However, it would be a shame to ignore this disc for those reasons, as the music is very fine, and the performances are really excellent. I had never heard of Andrea Oberparleiter, but she has a very fine voice, and I greatly like her singing here. Bernd Oliver Fröhlich is known from several ensembles, but then as a tenor. Here he is called an alto, but it seems that he only sings in his falsetto register in Handel's duet and in Greber's aria. In Bononcini's cantata he rather sounds as an haute-contre. The playing of the violin and the recorders is also very good.

Just forget the concept of this disc and enjoy the music.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Rosarum Flores

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