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Stolzel: Quadri di Dresda e Bruxelles / Epoca Barocca

Stoelzel / Epoca Barocca
Release Date: 01/29/2013 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777764   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gottfried H. StolzelGottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

STÖLZEL Quadri di Dresda e Bruxelles Epoca Barocca CPO 777 764-2 (51: 09)

Back in 24:1 and 24:5, Brian Robins passionately took up the cudgels of advocacy for Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690–1749) in interviews with conductor Ludger Rémy, undertaken in conjunction with releases of two CDs comprising the composer’s Weihnachtsoratorium . Apart from that, there is still only one entry for the composer in the Read more style="font-style:italic">Fanfare Archive, for a single quartet from a baroque anthology disc. Finding listings of CDs of his works available domestically presents a serious challenge, as the search function on the normally reliable ArkivMusic website has something seriously askew in his case, alternately producing either only one entry, or else a list of 100 entries that are mostly for J. S. Bach instead, with the handful of genuine Stölzel items randomly intermixed. (For a proper list, visit my favorite European website, jpc.de). Apart from the five releases that Rémy has produced for CPO, the only other Stölzel CDs I can find in print are another version of the Weihnachtsoratorium on the MDG label, a disc of chamber music on the Ambitus label, and now this new CPO release of the composer’s Quadro Sonatas.

The continued obscurity of Stölzel is, at first sight, difficult to understand, given the considerable reputation he enjoyed in his own lifetime. Born in the small town of Grünstädtel, southeast of Zwickau and near the northwestern border of the modern Czech Republic, he came from humble circumstances; his father, the son of a miner, was the local schoolteacher and church organist. Although his parents gave him some musical training, they did not want him to pursue a career in that field, and upon graduation from secondary school in Gera he obediently enrolled as a student in theology at the University of Leipzig. However, once there he was soon entirely absorbed into the city’s thriving musical scene, becoming a copyist for Melchior Hofmann, a pupil of Emanuel Kegel, and a devoted friend of Johann Friedrich Fasch. By the time he moved to Breslau in 1710 he was composing his first opera in addition to some instrumental music. Shortly afterward he moved on to Halle and then, after rejecting offers of employment from the courts at Gera and Zeitz, went to Italy to further his musical education, where he met among others Antonio Vivaldi, Alessandro Marcello, Johann David Heinichen, and Domenico Scarlatti. Late in 1714 he went back north to Prague, and—after a brief stay in Bayreuth in 1717, plus rejection of a lucrative offer of employment at the electoral court in Dresden, probably because his strong Protestant convictions made a post at a Catholic establishment uncongenial—returned to Gera to become the court music director. In November 1719 he assumed what would prove to be a lifelong position as Kapellmeister for the ducal court in Gotha. Highly esteemed by his contemporaries, he was, for example, admitted to membership in the Correspondierende Societät der musicalischen Wissenschaften (Corresponding School of Musical Science) of the renowned Leipzig scholar Lorenz Christoph Mizler (1711–1778) several years before the application of J. S. Bach was accepted. Mizler also composed a funerary ode to Stölzel upon the latter’s death. For his part, Bach paid a minor tribute to Stölzel by including a Partita in G Minor by him (with the addition of a trio of Bach’s own devising) in his Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.

While Stölzel was a prolific composer of stage works, oratorios, masses, cantatas, and various instrumental works, little of his output has survived; for example, only 12 of his 85 known secular cantatas, and fragments from only 10 of his 442 sacred cantatas, are extant. At least 18 orchestral suites and over 90 vocal serenatas are completely lost. Part of this is due to the fact that his music quickly became unfashionable after his death; his successor at Gotha, Georg Benda, explicitly stated that he thought only select works of Stölzel’s compositional corpus were worth preserving, ones that he weeded out from what he termed “useless junk.” The rest was consigned to leaky attics, where depredations of weather and hungry rodents soon took their toll. In the case of the nine quadros presented on this CD, eight are taken from the musical archives in Dresden (assembled primarily by Georg Pisendel) and the ninth is preserved in an archive in Brussels. They are unusual not only for their inclusion of the horn, but also for using it as an equal partner at a time when, outside of music for hunting and martial occasions, it was usually assigned to a strictly subordinate role of reinforcing instrumental climaxes. The limitations of the valveless horn of that period necessitated that F Major be the predominant key of all of these quadros.

This is my first exposure to Stölzel’s music. Not having heard either the Weihnachtsoratorium or the Brockes-Passion that so roused the enthusiasm of my colleague Brian Robins, I have neither a basis nor desire to gainsay his highly positive judgment of those. However, I can say that, based on these works, I do not share his enthusiasm. Imagine, if you will, nine knock-offs of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by a modestly talented pupil who lacks his master’s genius and artistry, and you will have the results presented here. They are pleasant and genial, and make for moderately enjoyable listening, but their commonplace thematic material prevents them from being anything more than that. I find no fault in either the sterling performances by Epoca Barocca, which presents these pieces in their best possible light, nor in CPO’s typically excellent recorded sound and lavish booklet notes. Based on this slender acquaintance, I am not about to make any general pronouncement on Stölzel’s merits as a whole; I will say that this disc is a purely discretionary rather than obligatory acquisition for the devotee of baroque instrumental music. If you choose to buy it, this disc will provide you with pleasure, but don’t expect it to bowl you over.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Quadro no 1 by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Quadro no 2 by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Quadro no 3 by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Quadro no 4 by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Quadro no 5 by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Quadro no 6 by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Quadro no 7 by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Quadro no 8 by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca
Quadro "Bruxelles" by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Epoca Barocca

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