CD Releases 2008
Handel’s work on Jephtha in 1751 was repeatedly delayed as a result of his steadily progressing blindness. In fact, this would be his last original composition before he became totally blind in 1752. In the hands of the librettist, Thomas Morell, and in contrast to the tragic story from the Old Testament, the work ends happily, as the offering of Jephtha’s daughter is hindered through the intervention of an angel. With Jephtha Handel created yet another musical masterpiece of baroque oratorio, with its great choruses, emotionally expressive arias and gripping ensembles. As part of the extensive Carus series of Handel recordings to honor the 250th anniversary of his death, in addition t outstanding soloists, with the Kammerchor of the Dresden Frauenkirche and the Dresden Barockorchester, conducted by Matthias Grünert, Carus has once again obtained a stellar ensemble.
Following its first performance in 1843, Mendelssohn’s impressive setting of the chorale Herr Gott, dich loben wir disappeared in the archives for more than 150 years and was only rediscovered in the mid-1990s. Through antiphonal writing and modal harmony Mendelssohn created an unusual, archaic atmosphere. His mastery in the art of underscoring the meaning of the text is also displayed in his settings of Psalms 95 and 98 for soli, choir and orchestra, as well as in Hymne op. 96. In addition, this CD also contains several smaller a cappella works. The interpretation of these works by the award-winning Kammerchor Stuttgart, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, and renowned soloists under the direction of Frieder Bernius brings the works to life with a most refined and brilliant sound.
Following the great success of his Magnificat, the internationally famous pop and jazz choir composer Christoph Schönherr has composed his Missa in tempore incerto. “Missa in tempore incerto – Mass in a difficult time. The beginning of the 21st century is beset by threats to the planet that will pose undreamed-of challenges to humanity. The music oscillates between fervent entreaties, cries for help, and hope. For the musical exegesis I found suitable and contemporary idioms in blues and Latin styles in particular. (C. Schönherr)
The continuation of the Carus Mendelssohn series: The Magnificat and Gloria, written in 1822, are Mendelssohn’s first large-scale works which he composed for reasons other than study purposes. The influence of the intense cultivation of Bach by his teacher, Carl Friedrich Zelter, and the Berlin Sing-Akademie are clearly evident, as in the later chorale cantatas. The masterful 19-voice motet, Tu es Petrus, which Mendelssohn gave his sister as a birthday present, he had planned to publish as his very first sacred work. Frieder Bernius and the Kammerchor Stuttgart present a further addition to their model, prizewinning CD series of Mendelssohn’s complete sacred works.
Carus has continued the recording of the complete Works of Louis Vierne in the Frauenkirche Dresden with the first part of the 24 Pièces de fantaisie. Kay Johannsen performs the Suites op. 51 and 54 (1926–27) on the Kern organ in the Frauenkirche. The final movement of the Troisième suite op. 54, “Carillon de Westminster,” is by far the most well-known piece of this collection, and next to the finale of the 1ère Symphonie is surely the most famous of all Vierne’s compositions. Kay Johannsen makes full use of all the sonoral possibilities of the French Kern Organ and skillfully combines his sensitive interpretation with the extraordinary acoustic of the Frauenkirche. This SACD offers all music lovers unlimited aural delights.
World premiere recording to mark the commemorative year 2009: Acis and Galatea was one of the most successful of Handel’s works during his lifetime. Following his death it also served as a model for several arrangements by prominent composers, including Mozart. That Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy concerned himself intensively with the work had been known for a long time, however only the parts had survived. Through an accidental discovery a few years ago of a copy of the work the Mendelssohn version of Acis and Galatea is once again accessible. Nicholas McGegan and his FestpielOrchester Göttingen, the North German Radio Choir, and an excellent ensemble of soloists present Handel’s music in the romantic guise of Mendelssohn’s colorful orchestration. An absolute sensation for the Handel and Mendelssohn year 2009.
Something special from the Frauenkirche Dresden: Today Ferdinando Paër (1771–1839) is known, at best, by opera connoisseurs. At the same time, during his lifetime he was among the most celebrated composers and influential musical personalities of Europe. During his tenure at the Court of Dresden he composed the extensive Missa piena in D minor, a year before he was summoned to Paris by Napoleon, part of the “spoils of war.” This composition, recorded here for the first time, is impressive due to the combination of operatic melodic passages and passages of innate calmness, in which the unexpected turns also has its special charm. In addition to the outstanding ensemble of soloists, the Dresden Kreuzchor and the Staatskapelle Dresden, the two oldest musical institutions of the Elbe metropolis, came together under the direction of Kreuzkantor Roderich Kreile.
Noble Christmas music by a son of Bach: these world-premiere recordings of works by C. P. E. Bach represent two different periods of his career. Throughout his whole life C. P. E. Bach regarded the 1749 Leipzig early version of his Magnificat as one of his most important works. It contains all the elements which aesthetics of the time demanded of a large-scale sacred composition: nobility, dignity, polyphonic and concertante choruses, deeply-felt arias, and a great concluding double fugue. The festive music Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes was written during Bach’s later years as director of music in Hamburg. The Basler Madrigalisten, L’arpa festante and well-known soloists, under the direction of Fritz Näf, give a commanding and enthralling interpretation of these works by C. P. E. Bach.
This world premiere recording of the Weihnachtsoratorium by Reinhard Keiser makes available one of the few surviving sacred works by a musician who was highly regarded by his contemporaries, primarily as a composer of operas. Well-known Christmas chorales, opulently scored, with rich polyphony, are joined by movements which depict with great delicacy the secene around the crib at Bethlehem. This CD includes, also recorded for the first time, the Magnificat by Christoph Graupner, written in 1772 to support his application for the post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig.
A Polish Christmas Concert: the familiar Christmas song Stille Nacht, Cicha Noc in Polish, is at the heart of this many-faceted cycle for mixed-voice choir and orchestra by the composer Maciej Małecki. This work, written in 2006, offers traditoinal and well-known Christmas melodies, newly harmonized. The choir and orchestra are equal partners. Under the direction of Jan Łukaszewski they give an assured and engaging performance of this work in all ist aspects, ranging from touching intimacy, fine humour and enthralling temperament to majestic nobility.
Festive Christmas music from the Dresden Frauenkirche: In his Christmas oratorio Homilius created a unique sound picture of the events of Christmas from the point of view of the shepherds. The subtly varied use of a large, festive orchestral apparatus, chorus and soloists determines the extremely many-sided character of this long forgotten Christmas music. The Christmas cantata Der Himmel steht uns wieder offen by Christian August Jacobi, also recorded on this CD, is, especially in its handling of the recitatives, a deeply-felt and expressive musical setting of the Christmas message of the birth of Christ. The concert is directed by the internationally renowned trumpeter and conductor Ludwig Güttler, one of the initiators and inspirers of the rebuilding of the Dresden Frauenkirche.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier is not only the composer of the Eurovision theme tune (Te Deum Prelude), through his oratorios, motets and cantatats he also made important contributions to French baroque sacred music. Some of his Christmas pieces are recorded on this CD. As in Charpentier’s many Histoires sacrées, the music is in the oratorio style, with recitatives sung by the Evangelist and direct utterances by biblical characters. The singers of the solistenensemble stimmkunst take both the solo and the choral parts. This CD also includes a number of charming Noëls, Christmas songs for a small instrumental ensemble.
For 40 years Frieder Bernius and the Kammerchor Stuttgart have set standards in the historic performance practice of choral works. Many international awards bear witness to the high quality and the worldwide recognition of this outstanding ensemble. The two main characteristics of the artistic activities of the conductor Frieder Bernius are his individual conception of vokal sound and his quest for historical fidelity to every style in European music since 1600.
Mendelssohn’s methods in the composition of Lieder underwent scarcely any changes throughout his lifetime, contrasts between his Lieder depending on the entirely individual shaping of the various pieces. Some of Mendelssohn’s early works are more progressive than his later Lieder. Hans Jörg Mammel, who enjoys an international reputation for his Lieder singing, offers with his selection Auf Flügeln des Gesanges impressive insights into Mendelssohn’s Lieder. He is accompanied by Arthur Schoonderwoerd, whose piano playing presents an additional impressive element of Mendelssohn’s Lieder.
The story of the orphan Heinrich is basically a sad one. He is neglected by his Stepmother and then is arrested by the village policeman for allegedly killing the neighbor’s cat. But when it turns out that he is actually the nephew of the Countess, everything ends happily. Rhymed dialogue alternates with music. Alongside the beautiful solo Lieder sung by poor Heinrich there are a series of comic, ironically exaggerated choruses and ensemble pieces. In the interpretation by the children’s choir of the Staatsoper Stuttgart, conducted by Johannes Knecht, the Singspiel Der Arme Heinrich offers adults as well as children an exciting musical entertainment.
The Ospedali in Venice had developed, over the course of their existence, from being purely charitable orphanages into renowned centres of Venetian musical culture. Far beyond the borders of Venice concerts given by musical young ladies trained at the Ospedali became celebrated during the 18th century. Sacred music written for female singers and instrumentalists, and performed by women in the churches, existed at that time only in Venice. This unique musical tradition became widely famous largely through the works of such notable composers as Vivaldi, Hasse, Porpora and Galuppi, who were active as teachers at the four “Ospedali grandi”. Tonal beauty, almost floating choral passages and virtuosic solo sections create the especial fascination of the works presented on this CD Le Grazie Veneziane. The soloists Maria Grazia Schiavo, Emanuela Galli, José Maria Lo Monaco and the ladies of the Vocal Concert Dresden, under the direction of Peter Kopp, recreate what was described euphorically as the “heavenly singing” at the Ospedali in the 18th century.
Praise of the beauty of nature and eternal life are the subjects of the sacred poems by B. H. Brockes which Handel set to music in his Nine German Arias. In these nine pieces for soprano and a small group of instruments, to be chosen at will, Handel drew in many places on music from his own operas, with the voice part in the German arias adapted to be less virtuosic and more deeply expressive. The Three German Arias, recorded for the first time on this CD, by Johann Mattheson, which were formerly attributed to Handel, are a real discovery for the repertoire. The soprano Monika Mauch is accompanied in her beautiful interpretation of the arias by the specialist ensemble L’arpa festante.
In his well-known Mass in E minor Anton Bruckner combined the vocal style of the Palestrina period with the musical resources of his own time. Along with its austere sound picture and its powerful dynamic contrasts, this Mass differs from Bruckner’s other orchestral masses above all by reason of its uncommon accompaniment of wind instruments alone. In addition to Bruckner’s demanding funeral motet Libera me, Josef Gabriel Rheinberger’s Requiem in E flat op. 84 is here recorded for the first time. In a masterful a cappella structure Rheinberger created, with straightforward resources, wide areas of tension and extremely effective musical highlights. The KammerChor Saarbrücken again demonstrates its supreme quality, convincing especially in the absolutely homogeneously sung a cappella passages and by its fine dynamic shading.
Nisi Dominus HWV 238 und Laudate pueri HWV 237, the two vesper psalms, were composed during Handel’s educational trip to Rome in 1707. In Nisi Dominus Handel continued the tradition of the concertante polychoral motet, which was especially cultivated in Rome at that time. Due to the writing for double choir, despite its short movements, the music unfolds with a great festive majesty of sound. As in many of his works Handel employs material from previous compositions in his anthem I will magnify thee HWV 250b, which was composed in London. Handel thought very highly of this work, for later he used parts of it in his great oratorio Belshazzar. The finely differentiated tone colors and the transparency are characteristic of the ensemble Gli Scarlattisti. These qualities make for a very special listening experience.
Seldom heard works from Bach's pupils are waiting to be discovered! The unique compositional styles of motets by Gottfried August Homilius, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach or Johann Philipp Kirnberger show once again the originality of the generation of composers after Johann Sebastian Bach. In spite of individual references to their teacher in each of the works recorded here the independence which they exercised, their further compositional development and how they distanced themselves stylistically from the master are clearly evident. The compositions are characterized by their original voice leading, harmonic liberties and expressive melodic lines, as in Friedrich Doles’s motet Wer bin ich, Herr? Peter Kopp and the Vocal Concert Dresden (formerly known as the Körnersche Sing-Verein) realize the emotional potential and multi-layered aspects of these works most convincingly in a moving interpretation.
Elijah is regarded as a milestone in Mendelssohn’s compositional output and as a high point in the oratorio literature of the 19th century. Elijah, Mendelssohn’s second great oratorio, was composed just a year before his premature death. This excitingly dramatic work also expresses a fervent belief in God, a belief which in the 19th century was no longer self-evident. Mendelssohn transposed the visible world of the Old Testament into numerous musical expressive possibilities in which Old Testament texts, including psalm texts and commentaries from the words of the Prophets, were shaped into biblical dramas. With Elijah Frieder Bernius continues the prizewinning CD series of Mendelssohn’s complete sacred works.
In the choral world Hans Schanderl is known as an innovative composer. The works recorded on the present CD show that he not only composes in the classical-conventional mode, but he also allows a variety of vocal means of expression and, often, non-European elements to flow into his music. His compositions thrive on the humorous and playful interplay of vocal contrasts and rhythmic variants, as well as from an always clear organized structure. The Polski Chór Kameralny and its conductor, Jan Łukaszewski, are regarded as one of the leading new music ensembles today. With the choir’s unique sense for the different facets of Schanderl’s compositions, perfect intonation and vocal homogeneity, the Polski Chór Kameralny demonstrates impressively its extreme choral flexibility and virtuosity.
The hope of working more closely together with theatres in Vienna led Schubert to thoroughly devote himself from the fall of 1821 to spring in 1822 to the oriental subject of Sakontala, the hermit’s daughter. Schubert’s drafts and sketches of the first two acts of this project have been preserved in autograph. Thanks to the rediscovery in recent times of the complete libretto and to the stylistically sensitive, and skillful reconstruction of the music by the Danish composer Karl Aage Rasmussen, this Schubert opera is recorded here for the first time. Not least, thanks to the interpretation by Frieder Bernius and a group of renowned soloists, this CD is a “must” for all Schubert lovers and lovers of 19th century opera!
Louis Vierne is regarded as one of the greatest late romantic composers of organ music. His work comprises an essential contribution to the genre of the French organ symphony. With Symphonies No. 3 and No. 5 Carus has launched a recording of the complete organ works of Vierne on the new Kern organ in the Dresden Frauenkirche. Samuel Kummer, the resident organist in the Frauenkirche, exploits the resources and sonorous possibilities of the organ so that the majestic sound of the music unfolds magnificently in the outstanding acoustic of this great church. This new SACD offers unlimited enjoyment not only for organ music afficiandos.
The chamber music of the 18th century is impressive, due to its stylistic and formal variety. Ludwig Güttler’s recording Sonate e Concerti, featuring works from Bach to Vivaldi, offers insight into this fascinating diversity. Such a wide-ranging repertoire calls for an outstanding artist such as Ludwig Güttler, who for many years has immersed himself intensely in this music. With this CD – together with the Leipzig Bach-Collegium – he once again underscores his outstanding reputation as a virtuoso soloist on the trumpet and corno da caccia.
Schubert's Ouvertüre in C minor D 8 and Beethoven's String Quartet in F Major op. 135 are borderline cases of their genres. They were composed for chamber music ensembles, but through their clear orchestral traits they soon found their way into the repertoire in the orchestral versions recorded here. With its use of quotations from composers whose works were forbidden after 1933, the Concerto funebre demonstrates Karl Amadeus Hartmann's resistance against the political situation as it existed in 1939, the year the work was composed. Partially atonal in conception, the Concerto funebre, with its use of varied musical material, grips the listener with immediacy. Not least, the emotionally-tinged interpretation of this Concerto by the Streicherakademie Bozen, conducted by Frieder Bernius, makes a contribution to this character.
The recently discovered works of Father Æmilian Rosengart are true treasures! As a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, Rosengart displayed great stylistic variety in his works. Thus several of the sacred arias recorded here were originally from operas and oratorios which have since been lost, to which he added new texts for liturgical use. The fact that the present recording was made in the church of the monastery at Ochsenhausen – that is, in the setting for which the compositions were originally conceived – enhanced the goal of achieving an historical performance practice in an authentic context.