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"Spirito Italiano - Italian Style in German Baroque"

Musica Fiorita
Dir: Daniela Dolci

rec: Oct 2017, Binningen (CH), Heilig Kreuz Kirche
Pan Classics - PC 10398 (© 2019) (69'38")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: (D)
Cover, track-list & booklet

Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758): Overture in C (FWV K,C1); Niccolò JOMMELLI (1714-1774): Te Deum laudamus; Johann Adolf HASSE (1699-1783): Kyrie in D; Johann Melchior MOLTER (1696-1765): Concerto for 2 trumpets, strings and bc in D (MWV IV,8); In Jesu heilig' und Geliebte (MWV I,6); Gottfried Heinrich STÖLZEL (1690-1749): Concerto for transverse flute, oboe, violin, viola and bc in e minor

Jessica Jans*, Sara Bino, Gunta Smirnova, soprano; Dina König*, contralto; Roman Melish, Alberto Miguélez Rouco, Hiram Santos, alto; Hans Jörg Mammel*, Daniel Issa, Christopher Wattam, tenor; Raitis Grigalis*, Ismael Arroniz, Tiago Mota, bass (*) soloists
Jean-François Madeuf, Tomohiro Sugimura, trumpet; Silvia Centomo, Tatiana Cossi, horn; Liane Ehlich, transverse flute; Priska Comploi, Miriam Jorde, oboe; Andrew Burn, bassoon; Hiram Santos, bassoon, timpani; Germán Echeverri, Katharina Heutjer, violin; Lola Fernandez, viola; Jonathan Pesek, cello; Marco Lo Cicero, violone; Rafael Bonavita, Juan sebastian Lima, theorbo; Juan Boronat Sanz, harpsichord, organ

In the course of the 17th century, the Italian style conquered the largest part of Europe. France was the main exception, as it developed its own style, which was to reflect the power of Louis XIV. In the last decades of the 17th century, some aristocrats in Germany were so impressed by the splendour of Versailles, part of which was the performance of opera and instrumental suites derived from them, that they wanted their chapels to play the same kind of music. However, the attraction of the Italian style never waned, and its influence increased after 1700, when in France the Italian style was increasingly accepted and the influence of Jean-Baptiste Lully started to fade away. In Germany many composers embraced what was called the 'mixed taste', in which elements of the Italian and French styles blended and were incorporated into the German tradition of counterpoint. The likes of Telemann, Bach and Fasch were some of the main exponents of this mixed taste.

The present disc's purpose is to shed light on the influence of the Italian style. It includes two concertos for solo instruments, representing a genre that was a typical exponent of it. The Concerto in e minor by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel is a specimen of the concerto da camera, as it is scored for transverse flute, oboe, violin and viola. The two wind instruments take the main roles in this piece; the violin and the viola are mostly reduced to an accompanying role and fill in the harmony. In some episodes the violin is playing colla parte with one of the winds. The Concerto in D by Johann Melchior Molter is scored for two trumpets, strings and basso continuo. The trumpets mostly play in parallel motion. It was common at the time that trumpet(s) and horn(s) kept silent in slow movements, and that is the case here as well: the andante in the middle is for strings alone.

Both Stölzel and Molter spent some time in Italy to broaden their horizon and become acquainted with the latest developments. They met some of the main exponents of the Italian style, such as Vivaldi, Albinoni and the Marcello brothers. Johann Friedrich Fasch, who worked for most of his time as Kapellmeister at the court of Anhalt-Zerbst, never went to Italy. That did not prevent him from being influenced by the Italian style. He was an admirer of Vivaldi, and he often composed music for the court in Dresden, which was - under the leadership of Johann Georg Pisendel - very much under the spell of Italian music. However, Fasch was also someone who liked French music, which comes to the fore in the many orchestral suites or overtures in his oeuvre. The programme opens with his Overture in C, which is scored for two oboes, two bassoons, strings and basso continuo. The inclusion of two oboes and a bassoon in overtures was very common, but two bassoon parts is rather unusual. The wind play a marked role in this work; the second bouree, for instance, is scored for two bassoons. In the fourth movement one of the bassoons has a solo role. The concertante features make this overture a typical specimen of the mixed taste.

The three vocal items are all purely Italian. That is to say, Molter's cantata for the third day of Christmas, In Jesu heilig' und Geliebte owes its form to Italian opera, just like the cantatas by Bach and Telemann. It opens with an aria for alto, which includes coloratura and an obbligato violin part. It is followed by recitatives for alto and soprano; the latter is marked with the label 'Seele' (soul). Next are a short accompanied recitative for tenor, with two oboes and bassoon, and a tenor aria, with obbligato parts for oboe and violin. Then we get a chorale on the melody of Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme. The bass then sings a recitative and a very short aria, without dacapo, which is followed by a chorus that closes the cantata. Little of Molter's sacred output has survived, which is very regrettable, as this cantata is a beautiful piece and quite original in its conception.

Niccolò Jommelli is the only born Italian in the programme, but it makes much sense to include him here, as for a number of years he worked at the court in Stuttgart, where he mainly wrote operas, but also his Requiem, which has been recorded recently. He seems to have written only four sacred works during his time in Stuttgart, and the setting of the Te Deum included here is one of them. The text is divided into tutti episodes and passages for two or four solo voices. There is just one aria: the words "We therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood" (Te ergo quaesumus) are set for alto, and this aria has the intimate character the text suggests. In this performance Dina König adds a cadenza. As I have no access to the score, I don't know whether this is indicated by Jommelli.

Johann Adolf Hasse was one of the main composers of operas of his time, which were performed across Europe. He spent most of his time in Italy, and converted to Catholicism. His Kyrie in D is divided into three sections. The first opens with prominent parts of the two horns. The second (Christe eleison) includes some chromaticism.

Although this disc's subject is the influence of the Italian style in Germany, the programme is a rather odd mixture of pieces that are hardly connected. In particular Molter's cantata is a bit of a maverick work. That said, I am happy to have heard it, as it sheds light on a little-known side of Molter's output (which is still seriously underestimated anyway). I have nothing but praise for the performances. The concertos receive excellent performances, and Molter's concerto is especially noteworthy for the performance on two trumpets without holes - a very interesting and important development. The vocal part of this recording is also first class. The ensemble is outstanding, and so are the four soloists, who also participate in the tutti. I would like to mention especially the contralto Dina König, who has a lovely voice - a real contralto - and delivers some quite impressive performances here.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

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