Notes and Editorial Reviews
Peter Kopp, cond; Maria Grazia Schiavo (sop); Emanuela Galli (sop); José Maria Lo Monaco (mez); Dresden Instrumental & Vocal Concerts
CARUS 83.264 (72:46
Text and Translation)
During its period of greatest public splendor and political power, Venice exported music and musicians to the rest of Europe. Taking a leading role in the proceedings were the
. These were ancient charitable institutions founded as orphanages, or to care for the elderly, the incurably sick, the impoverished. Gradually over time their existence became increasingly entwined with music-making, to the point that by the 17th and 18th centuries they were both a major hiring venue and the training grounds of composers and performers sought throughout the Continent. All three of the composers on this release were among the prestigious
maestri di coro
that led the four
Porpora developed a reputation for administration that led to his employment as master at various times of three of the institutions: the
Ospedali degli incurabili
from 1726–1733, and again in 1737–1738;
from 1742–1744; and
, from 1743–1747. (The otherwise attractively written liner notes claim that Porpora worked at
, but that’s incorrect. The patricianly board that ran
hired him for an unusually fine annual salary of 500 ducats.) Galuppi stayed with
from 1740–1751 and
from 1762–1765 and again from 1768–1776. Hasse took the reins of
in 1736, before Porpora, and for the period 1738–1739 after Porpora left, but his international operatic career took precedence. All three also acted as teachers, performers, and composers while in charge, yet each found time to take on other jobs. Porpora, for instance, continued to act as one of the finest singing teachers in Europe, while Galuppi was
maestro di cappella
at St. Mark’s from 1748 through 1762, considered the most prestigious music appointment in the city.
The three works on this album were written for performance by the forces of the various
. Porpora wrote his
in 1744, in his first year as head of
. Far from being dark and dolorous as the traditional text might lead one to expect, Porpora’s setting is bright, optimistic, even playful. Several of the choral movements in particular display notable contrapuntal ability alongside rhythmic verve and a simple, attractive tunefulness. It’s hard to resist the cross accents in “Sicut erat,” while the sections featuring one or two singers are warmed by a rising
sun: “Fiant aures tuae intendentes” owes much harmonically to Vivaldi, but shapes its inviting melodic phrases more sinuously.
was composed sometime during his latter period at the
. It is a more formal work than Porpora’s, one that emphasizes structure at a more complex level of organization. Elements of nascent symphonic construction that travels from Handel to Jommelli can be heard in the orchestral introduction to the first movement, as well as “Excelsus super omnes gentes” and especially “Quis sicut Dominus.” Hasse also grants his orchestra a more active and shifting role than does Porpora. The movements for soloists tend to be blank-faced, but there are some standouts, including the contrapuntal “Suscitans a terra” and a “Gloria Patri” built on a barcarolle-like rhythmic foundation.
Galuppi’s operatic expertise can be heard at the vigorous orchestral start of his 1774
, until the chorus enters in unison, pausing the forward momentum on a long-held third over the dominant—unexpectedly charming in this small setting, with its light voices. The thematic material is never shared in that opening movement between the orchestra and the choir; each has its own center of activity. There are some other surprises along the way, among these, the “Juravit Dominus,” with its masterly use of harmonic suspension and passing dissonances in a divided choir, and “Judicabit in nationibus,” the theme played on the strings, while the choir enters intoning the words at first on a single pitch. True, the music of the latter is far more appropriate to a pastoral extolling the infant Christ than proclaiming as it does, “He shall judge among the heathen/he shall fill the places with the dead bodies,” but presumably the gently humane composer had no more taste for a furious deity than did Fauré, more than a century later. The “Gloria Patri” reprises his opening movement, then launches a fine fugue to its conclusion.
The Vocal Concert Dresden draws largely upon graduates of the
Dresden Hochschule für Musik
, according to their official material, but not here. I have no idea where they acquired the girls they mix with their women’s choir, but the tonal blend is excellent. So is their intonation, and their shading when divided into two voices (Galuppi’s “Juravit Dominus” movement) displays fine balance. Among the soloists, Emanuela Galli possesses the richer soprano, with a fine trill, and a good ability to bow the voice for color. Maria Grazia Schiavo lacks the trill but has a considerably brighter instrument, allowing for good differentiation in duets that feature both sopranos (Porpora’s “A custodia matutina”). She also phrases more expressively; and while her upper range soars, her lower notes are effortfully produced. José Maria Lo Monaco uses her vibrato and light mezzo expressively and intelligently, though a few notes around the break are aspirated to facilitate movement. I find Peter Kopp and the Dresden Instrumental Concert a trifle staid and foursquare in this vivacious music, but accurate and poised nonetheless.
With good sound and texts provided in Latin, German, French, and English, this one’s definitely a keeper.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal