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Johann Joseph FUX (1660 - 1741): Kaiserrequiem

La Capella Ducale; Musica Fiata
Dir: Roland Wilson

rec: Dec 2 - 4, 2009, Kempen, Peterskirche
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88697959972 ( 2012) (72'33")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Kaiserrequiem in c minor (K 51-53); Libera me (K 54); Miserere in g minor (E 43); Sonata 3 (K 370); Sonata 4 in g minor (K 347)

[LCD] Monika Mauch, Constanze Backes, Karolina Brachman*, Rannveig Sif Sigurdardottir*, soprano; Alexander Schneider, Arnon Zlotnik*, alto; Markus Brutscher, Lothar Blum*, tenor; Harry van der Kamp, Ulrich Mayer*, bass [* ripienists]
[MF] Gerhard David, Fritjof Smith, Roland Wilson, cornett; Robert Schlegel, Peter Stelzl, trombone; Anette Sichelschmidt, Christine Moran, violin; Christiana Volke, viola; Olaf Reimers, cello; Adrian Rovatkay, bassoon; Hartwig Groth, violone; Christoph Anselm Noll, organ

Johann Joseph Fux was one of the most prolific composers of the baroque era. The list of his works in New Grove is very long. Only a small portion has been performed, and an even smaller portion has been recorded. And when his music is performed and recorded it is often the same repertoire which is chosen (see for instance here). In a way that also goes for this disc with his so-called Kaiserrequiem which was recorded in 1995 by the Clemencic Consort. But the programme is different in that other pieces are chosen to be added to the Requiem which is rather short.

In the 1690s Johann Joseph Fux moved to Vienna where he was appointed court composer in 1698 by the Habsburg emperor Joseph I. This is all the more remarkable as since the early 17th century musical life at the court was dominated by musicians from Italy. In 1711, after the death of Joseph, Fux was appointed vice-Hofkapellmeister, and in 1715 Charles VI appointed him Hofkapellmeister, a position he held until his death.

The Kaiserrequiem was originally written for the funeral of empress Leonora in 1720 and was used again for several other funerals: in 1736 for Prince Eugen of Savoyen and in 1740 for emperor Charles VI. It was also performed for several years on All Saints' Day. It consists of the Introitus, Kyrie, the sequence Dies irae, the offertorio Domine Jesu Christe, Sanctus and Benedictus, Agnus Dei and the communion Lux aeterna. In this performance other pieces have been added: a setting of the Miserere - the poenitential Psalm 50 (51) -, Libera me Domine as well as two sonatas.

One of the compelling aspects of the oeuvre of Fux is the mixture of old-fashioned and modern elements, which he himself called the stylus mixtus. On the one hand he makes use of the stile antico, on the other hand he writes solo episodes which are in line with the fashion of the time. That is especially the case in the Miserere whose 21 verses are divided into tutti sections which are dominated by counterpoint, and sections for one to four voices. The largest part of the Requiem itself is the sequence Dies irae, which is divided into a number of sections of different scorings. There are several passages with striking text illustration. As is to be expected we hear a trombone in Tuba mirum, but its sound is also imitated in the alto part. Contrasts in metre and key, pauses and a juxtaposition of homophonic and polyphonic passages are also used to express the text.

These features belie Fux's reputation as a dull theorist. This is emphasized by the often daring harmonies in the pieces on this disc, which include dissonances and chromaticism. Fux was a more adventurous composer than many music lovers - and probably even performers - think. However, Fux could be one of those composers whose music needs really good performances in order to show its qualities. In that respect this disc gives no reason to complain. On the contrary, this is a high-calibre interpretation, as one would expect from these ensembles which have produced so many outstanding recordings.

Roland Wilson always selects the appropriate voices for the repertoire he is going to perform. With the five singers in this recording you can hardly go wrong. Not only are they fine singers in their own right, their voices blend perfectly which is especially important considering the many tutti episodes which would be completely destroyed when one of the singers would use extensive vibrato or would overpower his or her colleagues. The solo episodes come off equally well as all the singers have an excellent understanding of the connection between text and music. The ripieno singers perfectly integrate in the ensemble. The players add colour to the vocal forces. In these pieces only the string instruments have an indepedent role in the concertante episodes, whereas the wind play colla voce.

Even funeral music like this Kaiserrequiem had to express the splendour of the imperial court of the Habsburger. That is convincingly conveyed in this production.

Johan van Veen ( 2012)

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