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Naumann: Missa In D Minor; Missa In C Minor / Kopp, Weichert, Hallaschka, Wessel

Release Date: 05/25/2010 
Label:  Ars Musici   Catalog #: 232237   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Gottlieb Naumann
Performer:  Heike HallaschkaMatthias WeichertMarkus Brutscher
Conductor:  Peter Kopp
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

NAUMANN Mass in d; in c Peter Kopp, cond; Heike Hallaschka (sop); Kai Wessel (alt); Markus Brutscher (ten); Matthias Weichert (bs); Neuer Körnerscher Sing-Verein; Collegium Instrumentale ARS MUSICI 232237 (64:23 &)

NAUMANN Gustaf Wasa: Overture. Kommt herzu 1. Psalm 96. Read more class="SUPER12">2 Psalm 103 2 Peter Kopp, cond; 2 Bettina Eismann (sop); 2 Elisabeth Wilke (alt); 2 Werner Güra (ten); 2 Egbert Junghanns (bs); 1,2 Körnerscher Sing-Verein Dresden; Dresden Instrumental Concert ARS MUSICI 232308 (54:09 &)

Although little known today, during his lifetime Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741–1801) occupied a very respected niche in the world of late 18th-century music. Born and raised near Dresden, his career was largely made there; after moving to northern Italy in 1757 for further musical training (his teachers there included Padre Martini), he was called to the Saxon imperial court in 1764 on the recommendation of Johann Adolf Hasse as second church composer, attaining promotion to Kapellmeister in 1776. Between 1777 and 1786 he was also active as a musical reformer of opera along Italian lines in Stockholm and Copenhagen; to retain him in Dresden, the Saxon elector promoted Naumann to Oberkapellmeister in 1786. Naumann remained there for the rest of his life, dying a wealthy and respected man. (For further details see Brian Robins’s review of the composer’s oratorio Betulia liberata in Fanfare 30:2.)

Much of Naumann’s oeuvre remains unpublished; a catalog compiled by Heinrich Mannstein in 1841 lists 27 Mass settings, of which those in D and C Minor presented here are numbers 18 and 21. However, since it was a customary practice of the Hofkirche to combine parts to various masses by different composers for liturgical use, manuscript dates suggest that individual Mass movements may have been composed at various times and only later assembled into complete Mass settings. The D-Minor Mass is an apparent exception, with all its movements bearing the date of 1794; the various parts of the C-Minor Mass, by contrast, range from 1786 to 1801. The D Minor was once a well-established work; between 1876 and the mid 1930s it was performed almost annually on December 26, following a Mass on Christmas day by Hasse, and evidence suggests the practice may go back to Naumann’s own lifetime. Psalm 96 dates from Naumann’s return to Dresden in 1786, and Psalm 103 and the brief one-movement cantata Kommt herzu from 1790. While Naumann himself was a Protestant, the Dresden court was Catholic; Psalm 96 and the cantata are rare instances of Naumann having an opportunity to set German-language texts for Protestant devotions—the psalm for Duke Friedrich von Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and the cantata for the Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde of the Moravian Church, inspired by a visit of Naumann to that devout Pietistic community (after its founding in 1727 it practiced an uninterrupted watch of prayer by its members for 100 years). Gustaf Wasa , an opera on the Swedish king who liberated his country from Danish thralldom, was for decades after its premiere the Swedish national opera (ArkivMusic has reissued the complete Virgin Classics recording with Nicolai Gedda). For unknown reasons the 1803 Breitkopf & Härtel edition of Psalm 96 included the opera’s overture as a musical preface, and so it is offered here.

During a visit to Dresden in 1789, Mozart peremptorily dismissed a Naumann Mass as “very poor stuff,” and doubtless that verdict affected Naumann’s posthumous fortunes. A typical representative of the galant style, his music is neither fish nor fowl for typical expectations regarding either Baroque or Classical-era music; its straightforward simplicity lacks the complexity of the former’s use of polyphony and the latter’s emphasis upon extended thematic and formal development. Even in his own day, Naumann’s music was stylistically in the conservative rearguard (which ideally suited him for the Dresden court); the Wasa Overture sounds startlingly like a work of Handel, and the various psalm and Mass movements demonstrate only a nodding acquaintance with the music of Haydn and no contact with that of Mozart. The harmonies are unenterprising, the melodies ordinary, the rhetorical gestures predictable. Somewhat surprisingly, however, Naumann’s music is not dull; while only moderately pleasant rather than memorable, it fulfills its intended ecclesial functions ably and even winningly. Unlike, say, the Mozart, Berlioz, and Verdi Requiems or Beethoven’s Missa solemnis , these are psalm and Mass settings that are subordinate to liturgical purposes; they do not draw attention to themselves in ways that distract one from devotional concentration, but rather humbly support it. They simply are not constructed to sustain the concentrated scrutiny of independent listening in the concert hall, and this as much as other factors explains why they have fallen largely into oblivion.

These two CDs are reissues, the first originally released in 1996 and the second in 1999. All the recordings are premieres and remain the sole versions available. The performances (by the same groups in both cases, despite their changes of names) leave nothing to be desired. The instrumental ensemble uses period instruments and plays with refined polish; the chorus is first-rate in every way; the soloists (Kai Wessel and Werner Güra having since achieved greater prominence) without exception all sing their brief parts ably. The digipaks contain informative booklets with texts in the original German and Latin with English translation. An online search has also located these two releases as a combined two-CD budget set for about the same price as each item individually, though I was not able to determine any product details such as inclusion of libretti. For those interested in filling in their collections with music from the secondary ranks of later 18th-century music in general and the galant composers in particular, these discs can be safely recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Mass No. 18 in D minor by Johann Gottlieb Naumann
Performer:  Heike Hallaschka (), Matthias Weichert (), Markus Brutscher ()
Conductor:  Peter Kopp
Period: Classical 
Venue:  St. Marienkirche Pirna 
Length: 27 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Mass No. 21 in C minor by Johann Gottlieb Naumann
Performer:  Matthias Weichert (), Heike Hallaschka (), Markus Brutscher ()
Conductor:  Peter Kopp
Period: Classical 
Venue:  St. Marienkirche Pirna 
Length: 33 Minutes 22 Secs. 

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