Notes and Editorial Reviews
GLORIA DRESDENSIS • Dresdner Barockorchester (period instruments) • CPO 777 782 (70:52)
BRESCIANELLO Sinfonia in D. CALDARA Sinfonia in C. FASCH Overture in F. HANDEL Occasional Oratorio: Overture in D. HASSE Demofoonte: Sinfonia in D. PISENDEL Sonata in c. SAMMARTINI Memet: Sinfonia in A
I must admit that I really like this sort of varied program on a disc that is topical according to geographical location. Here, one finds a treasure trove of works from the glory days of Dresden, when the likes of Johann Adolph Hasse was in charge of what arguably might have been one of the best Kapelle in Europe of the 18th century. According to the title, this bunch of instrumental works can be found in “Schrank II” of the
Hofkapelle archives, a euphemistic title since this “Schrank” is hardly just a simple closet. It contains almost 2,000 works from around 1740, give or take, and includes music by the most prominent composers of the day. Doing the math, one finds that the seven works above don’t really even amount to a molecule of the whole, but as a group they form a rather nice early Classical or late Baroque concert sure to whet the appetite for further recording from this hoard.
The music is generally for the ensemble. This includes the peripatetic Sonata in C Minor by concertmaster Johann Pisendel (1687–1755), who wrote this two-movement work for strings and oboes sometime about 1750. It is a typical sinfonia da chiesa, and its cautious imitative counterpoint in the slow introduction, followed by a rather conventional if lively fugue, points to its religious associations. However, the episodic material has more than a hint of the fandango in the rhythm and harmony, so it may well be that the piece was an anachronistic anomaly. The disc’s first number is a well-crafted symphony by Giuseppe Brescianello (c. 1690–1758) who was active from 1716 onwards in Stuttgart. The work is vivacious and modern, with a rollicking opening movement replete with some rather impressive horn work (though not solo). Here we are firmly in the world of the Empfindsamkeit with sudden dynamic changes, triplet versus duplet rhythms, and driving themes. A lyrical second movement, in its insistent and gentle nature, could have come straight from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The finale is a steady minuet, with the occasional Lombardic rhythms for variety and winds mostly duplicating the string parts throughout. The Caldara Symphony is brilliant and martial, with its high trumpets and equally driving forward motion that has the main motive being sequenced in some rather neat ways. There is even a crazy solo part for two bassoons that somehow emerge from the transparent texture for a moment; this is repeated by a solo violin in the third ritornello, lending the work a hint of Vivaldi. It not known whether this work was ever part of something larger, such as an opera, for the Dresden score seems to be the only source, but the schema and function would suggest this is the case. The two opera overtures, to Johann Adolph Hasse’s Demofoonte from 1748 and Giovanni Battista Sammartini’s Memet from 1732, represent the thin line that separates the stage from the concert hall. For the latter, Pisendel augmented the original string orchestra with some tastefully done woodwind parts, thus turning it into a proper symphony. Both are similar in format to the Brescianello; both conclude with rather precise, prancing minuets, but otherwise are quite lively. This makes the remaining two works, a suite by Johann Friedrich Fasch and an overture by George Frédéric Handel, representatives of an older style that was still in fashion in 1740s Dresden. Indeed, Pisendel, ever resourceful, even added a couple of dance movements to the Handel, in effect turning it into a sort of Baroque suite. The opening French overture in this work is replete with powerful trumpets and timpani, swirling out decisive punctuations that give a sense of force to the rather simple counterpoint.
As for the performance itself, the conductor-less Baroque Orchestra of Dresden gives a lively and spirited performance. The tempos are spot on, the articulations extremely clear, and the sound bright and perhaps almost luminescent. This is one fine recording, sure to chase away any blues one might have with its exuberant nature. Although not entirely filled with well-known names and works, this disc is highly recommended for any early collection, as it will clearly demonstrate the glory not only of the city and its musicians, but of the music itself.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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