Hasse: Requiem in C

Release Date: 5/31/2011
Label: Carus
Catalog Number: CV83349
Number of Discs: 1

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In Stock
Notes and Editorial Reviews

HASSE Requiem in C. Miserere in c Hans-Christoph Rademann, cond; Johanna Winkel, Marie Luise Werneburg (sop); Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Marlen Herzog (alt); Colin Balzer (ten); Cornelius Uhle (bs); Dresden C Ch; Dresden Baroque O (period instruments) CARUS 83.349 (70:15 Text and Translation)

Carus Verlag of Stuttgart has an interesting dual purpose to its business by releasing discs such as this based upon its latest scores and parts. In general, this has been quite interesting, even given that the recording arm is now owned by Naxos, but the result has been a concentrated effort on composers whose names were mostly well known but whose works were little performed. I can say that the scores are generally quite nicely edited, and it is good to have such works as the two pieces performed here available in the series Music from Dresden . Johann Adolph Hasse is one of the pivotal figures of the 18th century. Married to soprano Faustina Bordoni and heir to George Frederick Handel’s title of “Il caro sassone,” he was a principal figure in opera and church music in Dresden, where he was Hofkapellmeister , but also in Italy, where he was commissioned to write up through his late-70s, as well as functioning as maestro di cappella at the Ospedale degli Incurabili. One might expect a vast amount of music to have been written during this time, and indeed this is the case, for he composed frequently and eloquently at the drop of the proverbial hat for any occasion. Like Telemann, he had no qualms about fulfilling any commission that was given him, no matter how large or trivial, and his style conformed to whatever the tastes were at that moment.

Hasse composed two Requiem Masses for Dresden, one in E?-Major (also recorded by Carus and the Dresden Baroque Orchestra) and this one in C Major. Both works seem to have been written in 1763 within a few weeks of each other, this one for Frederick August II and the other for his successor who kicked off only a couple of weeks later. Because Frederick August was a beloved leader, his obsequies seem to have been celebrated annually for almost a century, and Hasse’s music became a fixture in Dresden, even though it had long since gone out of fashion stylistically. The work is sprawling, with the text subdivided into numerous smaller movements and scored for a large ensemble. C Major may have been a rather odd key for a Requiem, but Hasse found that path between mourning and celebration of his ruler’s life that avoided a more maudlin setting in a minor key. Besides, he seems to have been less interested in an integrated work than one which would accompany a grand public event. In any case, the result is rather a mixed bag. For me, the opening presents one of the most suspenseful of the period, with a slow tattoo of tonic and dominant confusing the issue of key. Is it C Major, or is it C Minor? When the oboes enter, the major key becomes apparent, but at the words “et lux perpetua,” the shift to minor mode is both funereal and emotional. This captures the attention immediately, but expectations rise and fall during the course of the work. The Te decet hymnus is an old-fashioned paean with Baroque walking bass, and while the Kyrie is worthy of any major-key Mass by Joseph Haydn, the following highly contrapuntal Christe eleison with its strange harmonic twists seems anachronistic, even as it foils expectations. One might expect the Dies irae to have grist for a powerful image of the Last Judgment, but instead it is a rather weak homophonic chorus over dotted rhythms. There is nice woodwind writing in the Inter oves , reminding one of C. P. E. Bach, and the Lacrymosa ’s heavy, minor-key, ponderous tread is less gentle tears than weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. There are operatic moments, such as the delightful alto solo in the Recordare , and when Hasse pairs his women’s voices, such as the lyrical Hostias et preces , or the Sanctus with its pair of sopranos at the beginning and at the Hosanna in excelsis , we are more in the heavenly realm than heading in the opposite direction (musically speaking, of course). The final Lux aeterna , followed by a recap of the opening Requiem aeternam , is brief and to the point, with an all-male chorus.

The Requiem itself is too long to be paired with a similar work but too short for a single disc, and therefore Carus has opted to include a Miserere written originally for Venice. This apparently survives in a copy for Dresden with a four-part chorus, as opposed to the first version, which was for women’s voices only, in deference to the Ospedale forces. It is a competently composed but rather more pedestrian work. The tone is lighter, such as the operatic Tibi soli or the Quoniam si voluisses , and the chorus more homophonic (though there is a bit of counterpoint as required at the final Amen ).

The performance by the Dresden early-instrument ensemble seems competent enough. The individual soloists for each movement are not enumerated on the track list, though one can probably intuit who sings which part. The voices in general blend well together, particularly sopranos Johanna Winkel and Marie Luise Werneburg, while Wiebke Lehmkuhl has a nice rich tone to her voice. Colin Balzer’s tenor can be a bit light at times, but his tone likewise is clear and unambiguous. Cornelius Uhle’s bass also fits in quite well, and in the Tibi soli he handles the part with ease. Hans-Christoph Rademann keeps his ensemble’s tempos moving along at a respectful pace, but he avoids any breakneck speeds and so allows the music to emerge well. I would have loved a bit more life in the Miserere , but Hasse’s conventionality probably prevents any real moments of brilliant light in the interpretation. My only qualm is the recorded sound, in which the strings are often a bit strident and one can hear the scraping of bows. The trumpets, too, could be more secure. You’ll probably want this disc if you are a fan of Requiems, and certainly the work would appeal to those interested in 18th-century music. It is certainly a decent recording, and brooks comparison with Hasse’s other Requiem.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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