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Johann Adolf HASSE, Nicola Antonio PORPORA: "Salve Regina - Motets"

Clint van der Linde, altoa
Les Muffatti

rec: March 27 - 30, 2021, Grimbergen (B), Abdij (church)
Rame - RAM 2102 ( 2022) (69'07")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E
Cover & track-list
Score Hasse, Hostes averni
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Johann Adolf HASSE (1699-1783): Alma redemptoris matera; Hostes avernia; Nicola Antonio PORPORA (1686-1768): Nisi Dominusa; Salve Reginaa; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741): Concerto for strings and bc in F (RV 136); Concerto for strings and bc in G minor (RV 154)

Ryo Terakado, Catherine Mees, Birgit Goris, Jorlen Vega, Laurent Hulsbosch, Marrie Mooij, Marianne Herssens, violin; Wendy Ruymen, Sylvestre Vergez, viola; Marian Minnen, Corentin Dellicour, cello; Benot Vanden Bemden, double bass; Bernard Zonderman, archlute; Bart Jacobs, harpsichord, organ

Two composers, who are better known by name than their music, on one disc: that makes sense, as they are both early representatives of the galant style which was born in Naples and soon disseminated across Europe. Johann Adolf Hasse has become best known as one of the main opera composers of his time, which were performed in many countries, from Naples to Dresden and from Vienna to London, oft with his wife, the famous soprano Faustina Bordoni, in one of the leading roles. Nicola Antonio Porpora earned fame as the teacher of many opera stars, among them the castratos Farinelli and Caffarelli. Both composers left a large oeuvre and contributed to every genre of their time, but were especially active as composers of vocal music. To date only a small portion of the output of either of them has become available on disc. Therefore it is not that surprising that the disc which is the subject of this review, includes several first recordings. The starting point of the recording is interesting: a collection of about one hundred music manuscripts that is kept in the archiepiscopal archives of Mechelen (Belgium) that has recently been analysed and which includes a number of pieces that are not known from other sources.

The collection was brought together by Corneille-Jean-Marie van den Branden, lord of Reeth, who on his grand tour visited the main musical centres of Italy, including Naples and Venice; in the latter city he met Antonio Vivaldi. In 1714 he was in Naples, and the liner-notes suggest that at that occasion he may have acquired the three pieces by Porpora in the collection, among them the setting of Nisi Dominus. This is an early work which does not smell so much of opera as the other work on this disc. In fact, stylistically this piece shows similarity with Vivaldi's well-known version. Notable are the two sections in which the voice is accompanied by an obbligato instrument and basso continuo: in 'Vanum est vobis' it is the violin, in 'Beatus vir' the cello. In 'Sicut sigittae' the high tempo illustrates the text: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth". In this piece the text is given more attention than in Porpora's setting of the Salve Regina, which is more operatic in style and includes quite some coloratura and long legato lines. It is a testimony of Porpora's intimate knowledge of the voice and his activities as a teacher of (opera) singers.

Hasse was a pupil of Porpora, and along with his fame he developed into one of his teacher's main rivals. It did not prevent his from speaking with respect about Porpora in a conversation with the English music historian Charles Burney. His two compositions included here are very different in character. Hostes averni has the typical form of an Italian motet, as we find it also in Vivaldi's oeuvre: two arias embrace a recitative, and the work closes with an extended 'Alleluia'. In particular the second aria is very operatic and would not be out of place in one of his operas. Counterpoint is absent here, and that makes it a typical product of the galant style. In comparison his setting of Alma redemptoris mater is much more intimate and restrained; there is some counterpoint in the string parts, and the text is more important here. The highlight is the closing section, 'Virgo prius ac posterius', which is a model of wonderful lyricism.

The pieces included here are in the best of hands with Clint van der Linde. He is not one of those male altos who make the headlines, but I greatly admire his singing, as I have in previous recordings. He is in excellent form here, and he meets the technical requirements with ease. More importantly, he fully explores the expressive features of these four works by Porpora and Hasse, and finds exactly the right approach, respecting the differences between them. He is not sparing with ornamentation, but does never exaggerate, and his cadenzas are always tasteful and stylistically convincing. Les Muffatti is a very fine ensemble which aptly supports Van der Linde and delivers lively performances of the two string concertos by Vivaldi.

Johan van Veen ( 2022)

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