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"Italiener in Dresden" (Italians in Dresden)

Instrumenta Musica
Dir: Ercole Nisini

rec: August 2009, Schloßkirche Altenburg
Querstand - VKJK 0912 (© 2009) (64'00")

Carlo FARINA (c1600-1639): Balletti II à 3 [6]; Balletto III à 4 [6]; Gagliarda II à 4 [6]; Passamezzo I à 3 [6]; Pavana I à 4 [6]; Volta III à 4 [6]; Giovanni Battista PINELLO (c1544-1587): Anima mia diletta [3]; Battaglia in lode della vittoria Christiana [3]; Pater noster [4]; Se gl'occhi tuoi non miro [3]; Un vago pastorello à 3 [3]; Antonio SCANDELLO (1517-1580): Der Wein der schmeckt mir also wol [2]; Habe fiduciam in Domino [1]; Kein lieb on leid [2]; Lasset die Kindlein zu mir kommen [1]; Lobet den Herren denn er ist sehr freundlich [1]; Schein uns du liebe Sonne [2]; Johann Hermann SCHEIN (1586-1630): Ach weh, bin ich Amor [5]; Ich bin ein Bergmann wohlgemut [5]; O Schäferin, o Filli mein [5]; Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672): Exultavit cor meum (SWV 258) [7]; Paratum cor meum (SWV 257) [7]

Sources: Antonio Scandello, [1] Newe Teutsche Liedlein, 1568 [2] Nawe und lustige Weltliche Deudsche Liedlein, 1570; Giovanni Battista Pinello, [3] Il quarto libro delle Napolitane, 1575; [4] Muteta quinque vocum, 1588; [5] Johann Hermann Schein, Ander Theil der Musica Boscareccia oder Wald-Liederlein, 1626; [6] Carlo Farina, Il quarto libro delle Pavane, Gagliarde, Balletti ..., 1628; [7] Heinrich Schütz, Symphoniae Sacrae, I, 1629

Maria Skiba, soprano; Uta Schmidt, recorder; Amrai Große, violin; Jiri Sycha, violin, viola da braccio; Norbert Schuster, violone; Christoph Scheerer, sackbut; Zita Zita Mikijanska, organ

Heinrich Schütz, Kapellmeister of the court in Dresden, was the dominating figure at the music scene in Germany in the 17th century. Twice he had been in Italy to get acquainted with the newest trends in music. These visits had a lasting influence on his style of composing. It was not the only channel through which the Italian style disseminated in Germany. Several Italian musicians went to Germany to look for employment. One of them was the violinist Carlo Farina who published five books of instrumental music. His idiomatic and virtuosic writing for the violin was instrumental in the emergence of Germany as a centre of violin playing in Europe.

Schütz and Farina did introduce the stile nuovo, but before other musicians from Italy had been active in Dresden. In 1548 Martin Luther's musical advisor, Johann Walter, founded the Hoff-Cantorey in Dresden, and immediately musicians from Italy were engaged. One of them was Antonio Scandello from Bergamo, who became the first Hofkapellmeister. In 1562 he converted to Lutheranism, which was an essential prerequisite to become a citizen of Dresden. When he died in 1580 the post was offered to Orlandus Lassus, but when he declined the invitation, another Italian was appointed: Giovanni Battista Pinello.

This disc presents music by some of the musicians who have worked in Dresden. It is understandable that some pieces by Schütz have been included, but these are quite well-known and available in various other recordings. Hardly any music by Scandello and Pinello has ever been recorded, and therefore the inclusion of pieces from their oeuvre is the main significance of this disc. Farina is rather well-known, but the largest part of his oeuvre still waits to be recorded.

On paper this programme is highly interesting. The alternation of vocal and instrumental items and the inclusion of sacred and secular music results in an attractive varied sequence of compositions. But the performances are rather disappointing, and the scoring of the various items is sometimes hard to understand.

The instrumental pieces by Farina don't belong to his most modern compositions. In some of his five books he included sonatas which very much reflect the modern concertato style from Italy. But he also has written dances as performed here, which show the influence of the music from northern Germany, which was influenced by the English consort music. The Pavana I à 4 which opens the programme is beautifully played, but the other pieces are lively dances, and here the playing is rather bland, with a lack of rhythmic vitality.

The most unsatisfying parts of this disc are the secular items. All vocal pieces are performed with one singer, with the other parts being played at various instruments. It is rather odd to use an organ here. This contributes to them sounding like sacred music, which is even enhanced by the singing of Maria Skiba. She has a very beautiful voice, crisp and clear, with a wide range and without any wobble. But she doesn't grasp the spirit of the secular items very well. The tempi are often too slow, but it is mainly a lack of text expression which makes it difficult to really enjoy them. They should rather be performed by a good madrigal ensemble. That way they would reveal their true character. Although a performance with one voice and instruments is historically plausible, the scoring of Scandello's Der Wein der schmeckt mir also wol is completely misjudged. This is a dialogue between a solo voice and an ensemble; the latter sings a kind of chorus, which is performed here instrumentally. This way its effect is completely nullified. The madrigals by Schein also don't come off well. Strictly speaking the inclusion of his compositions is at odds with the subject of this disc: he studied in Dresden and was close friends with Schütz, but his collection of madrigals from which the three items on this disc are taken, was printed when he worked as Thomaskantor in Leipzig.

The sacred pieces are generally performed better, in particular those by Antonio Scandello. The almost 'instrumental' way of singing of Maria Skiba is quite appropriate, and her voice blends well with the instruments. Even so, the balance is too much in favour of the voice. In the two sacred concertos by Schütz, however, Ms Skiba's approach is wrong: her interpretation isn't speech-like enough, there are too few dynamic accents and she should have added more ornamentation. Exultavit cor meum is slowish and lacks text expression.

On balance this is a disappointing production. That is particularly regrettable as the largest part of the repertoire is hardly known, and even some composers are barely represented on disc. There are certainly some items which are performed quite well, but on the whole this disc can hardly be recommended. The lyrics are in Latin, German and Italian, but the booklet doesn't give any English translations.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

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