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Johann Adolf HASSE (1699-1783)
Sonatas and Trio Sonatas
Trio Sonata for oboe, violin and b.c. in F [11:21]
Trio Sonata for oboe, violin and b.c. in d minor [09:39]
Sonata for violin and b.c. in e minor, op. 5,5 [11:38]
Sonata for oboe and b.c. in G [08:13]
Sonata for chalumeau, oboe, bassoon and b.c. in F [14:47]
Trio Sonata for oboe, violin and b.c. in C [10:01]
Epoca Barocca: Alessandro Piqué (oboe), Christian Leitherer (chalumeau), Sergio Azzolini (bassoon), Margarete Adorf (violin), Ilze Grudule (cello), Christoph Lehmann (harpsichord, organ)
Recorded in October 2001 at the Broadcasting Hall of Deutschlandfunk, Cologne, Germany. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 0711 [66:15]

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Hasse was one of the most prominent composers of music for the theatre in Europe during the half a century before Gluck initiated the reform of opera. He was widely admired for the smoothness and elegance of his melodic writing. He has to his credit a very large number of theatrical works as the list in New Grove shows. In comparison the number of instrumental pieces is rather limited. He wrote much more, as Charles Burney reported: "The duets, the trios, the quartets, and the concerts for instruments were so many that he himself would not have been able to recognize them when listening or looking at them". The publishing house Breitkopf in Leipzig had collected most of his chamber music with the aim of publishing Hasse's complete works. Unfortunately Frederick the Great of Prussia bombarded Leipzig during the Seven Years War, and a large part of Hasse's music was destroyed in December 1760. The irony of having one of his strongest admirers responsible for destroying a large part of his musical output did not escape Hasse. According to Burney he commented that he was sure that had Frederick had the chance he would have informed him that Leipzig was going to be bombarded, in order to give him the opportunity to save his compositions.

It is also Burney who hits the nail on the head when he describes Hasse's music thus: "In his compositions the intention of pleasing the ear and of satisfying the intellect is evident, leaving to the vain and the pedantic everything that strikes, stupefies and puzzles." This is exactly the feature of the music on this disc. Don't expect any deep feelings or thoughts here. There are no themes which catch the ear, no striking harmonies, no melodic surprises; just an hour of musical entertainment.

The three trio sonatas are from a collection of pieces for two flutes or violins with basso continuo. One of them was found in a manuscript in an adaptation for oboe and violin, which is the version played here. The ensemble decided to adapt the other two trio sonatas in the same way. This is in line with a widespread practice in the 18th century. The oboe sonata comes from a collection of solo sonatas for flute or violin. Originally for violin is the sonata in e minor, the fifth from the Solos op. 5, published in London in 1744. This is the only sonata which delivers a little more than just entertainment.

The most striking piece as far as its scoring is concerned is the quartet for chalumeau, oboe, bassoon and bc in F. In particular the part of the chalumeau is remarkable, as the instrument was mainly used in orchestral music, but hardly ever in chamber music. Also notable here is the part of the bassoon, which plays the role of an obbligato instrument and supports the harpsichord in the basso continuo as well.

The ensemble Epoca Barocca understands what it takes to entertain the audience. They don't 'pump up' the music and don't make it sound more weightier than it is. The ensemble playing is immaculate, and the choice of tempi convincing. I would have preferred to hear at least one of the trio sonatas in its original scoring, for example with flute and violin. It would have made this disc a little more varied as far as the instrumental colour is concerned.

This disc is certainly not a 'must have', but if one looks for a recording with entertaining music of the 18th century which hasn't been recorded umpteen times before, this is an excellent choice. Apart from that it pays attention to an aspect of a celebrated composer otherwise largely neglected.

Johan van Veen



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