musica Dei donum

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"Don Quichotte in Hamburg"

Elbipolis Barockorchester Hamburg
Dir: Jürgen Groß
rec: May 8 - 12, 2005, 14943 Schönefeld, near Marzahna (Ger)
Raumklang - RK 2502 (© 2005) (63'55")

Francesco Bartolomeo Conti: Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena (Overture in C; Ballo de Pagarellieri); Johann Mattheson: Overture in F 'Die geheimen Begebenheiten Henrico IV. Königs von Castilien und Leon'; Georg Philipp Telemann: Overture in G 'La Querelleuse' (TWV 55,G8); Overture in G 'Burlesque de Quichotte' (TWV 55,G10)

Jürgen Groß, Albrecht Kühner, violin; Micaela Storch-Ettelt, viola; Inka Döring, cello; Dirk Lüking, double bass; Matthew Jones, theorbo, guitar; Jörg Jacobi, harpsichord; with Kerstin de Witt, recorder; Michael Metzler, percussion

This disc concentrates on the story of Don Quichoxote and Sancho Pansa as it was reflected in music of the first half of the 18th century. This story by Cervantes soon became world-famous and inspired composers to express his adventures in music. This disc brings instrumental music which was or could have been performed in Hamburg. Not all pieces are strictly related to Don Quixote, as the list of compositions shows. The instrumental music from Johann Mattheson's opera is not related to Cervantes's stories, but only to Spain in general. And Telemann's overture hasn't even anything to do with Spain, but is a portrayal of a quarrelsome woman.

The booklet contains a story about a visit of Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa to Hamburg where they - to their surprise - find out that their stories are known over there and are even the subject of compositions. They talk to Mattheson, Telemann and Conti about their music, and Sancho Pansa is delighted that Telemann announces that he is going to write an opera about him. This story is complete fantasy, of course, but not without any historical relevance. There is no evidence that Conti ever visited Hamburg, but his opera 'Don Chisciotto', which was performed in 1719 in Vienna, where Conti was principal theorbist at the imperial court, received great popularity and was performed elsewhere. It is recorded it was performed in Hamburg in 1722 with additions (in German) by Mattheson. The suite - containing some arias - gives some idea about the quality of Conti's opera, which so far hasn't received the attention it deserves.

Telemann's overture about Don Quixote is probably one of his most popular works. Many recordings are available, and it is remarkable to hear how ensembles are trying to find different ways to deliver the effects Telemann uses to express parts of the adventures of Don Quixote. The orchestra does so very effectively, although I find the harpsichord in the second movement too obtrusive. The acoustics is a little too dry, which makes the sound of the ensemble a bit hard, almost aggressive. That is true for the whole disc, but in this work it is more obvious than elsewhere. The other overture is also a fine work, not as exuberant as the Burlesque de Quichotte, but still with some good effects.

In comparison Mattheson's work is somewhat pale, although one have to realise the instrumental movements have been isolated from the opera they come from. But even so, having heard one of Mattheson's operas in a concertante performance I believe Mattheson is a better theorist than composer.

In short: this is an interesting recording, well put together and well played.

Johan van Veen (© 2007)

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