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Johann Caspar Ferdinand FISCHER (1656-1746)
Musica Sacra
Concertus de Sancta Cruce [14:18]
Missa Sancti Dominici [17:53]
Litaniae Lauretanae VI Honori Visitationis B.V. Mariae [07:05]
Vesperae seu Psalmi Vespertini pro toto Anno: (Ingressus: Deus in adiutorium [01:01]; Dixit Dominus [02:53]; Beatus vir [03:44]; Laudate pueri [04:30]; Laudate Dominum [02:44]; Magnificat [05:42])
IV Antiphonae pro toto Anno [03:58]
Rastatter Hofkapelle (Michael Maisch, Heiko Hörburger (trumpet); Beate Spaltner, Ursula Benzing (soprano); Matthias Lucht (alto); Judith Ritter, (contralto); Jürgen Ochs, Raimund Sturm (tenor); Johannes Happel, Claus Temps (bass); Dietrich Schüz, Christine Wieligmann (violin); Jörg Rieger (cello); Adina Scheyhing (violone); Markus Bieringer (organ))/Jürgen Ochs
rec. October 2006, Hans Rosbaud-Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. DDD
CARUS 83.172 [64:36]


Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer's fame rests on his keyboard works and in particular his 'Ariadne Musica', a collection of twenty preludes and fugues through different keys, starting with C major and ending with c minor. It was originally published in 1702. It seems that Johann Sebastian Bach was acquainted with it, and was influenced by it in writing his Wohltemperirte Clavier. It is only relatively recently that Fischer's vocal music has attracted any real attention. 

Fischer was born in Schönfeld (Krásno) in Bohemia and spent his youth in Schlackenwerth (Ostrov). Around 1693 Georg Bleyer was a member of the court chapel in Schlackenwerth. It is probably through him that Fischer became acquainted with the French style. Bleyer had visited Paris to study Lully's music, which resulted in a collection of orchestral overtures in French style. Fischer followed in his footsteps: his 'Journal de Printems' was published in 1695. Whether he ever visited Paris himself is unclear. But his connection to Bohemia is well documented, although he worked a considerable part of his career in Germany and is generally considered a German composer. 

Fischer was appointed music director at the court of Elector Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden in Rastatt. When the Elector moved to his estates in Bohemia around 1700 Fischer returned to Schlackenwerth. It seems he worked in Rastatt again from 1715 onwards, when the Elector's court was re-established. During his time in Schlackenwerth he established a connection with the Order of the Knights of the Cross with Red Star, which administered several parishes in the neighbourhood of Schlackenwerth.

The Order was founded in 1237 and was the only monastic order of Bohemian origin. In the 17th and 18th centuries the headquarters of the Order developed into the main cultural centre in Prague. Music and its development were not neglected. During services the newest music, in particular of Italian origin, was performed in the church of the Order. 

A large part of Fischer's religious music has been preserved in the archive of the Order, which purchased some of his  compositions. Fischer himself dedicated his 'Vesperae seu Psalmi Vespertini pro toto Anno' to Frantisek Franchimont, Grand-Master of the Order from 1699 to 1707.

A selection of five psalms and a Magnificat from this collection has been recorded here. The first item on this disc is also found in the Order's archive. The 'Concertus de Sancta Cruce' was written for performance during the principal feasts of the Order, the Invention of the True Cross and the Exaltation of the Cross. The devotion of the Holy Cross was the core of the Order's spirituality. The central section of this piece, scored for four voices (soli and ripieni) and an ensemble of two trumpets, two violins and bc, takes about half the time and is an exalted tribute to the Cross: "O most blessed Cross", "O Cross, shine as a gracious light of the world", "admirable, wonderful Cross", and "the Cross is the gate of piety". 

Some of Fischer's religious works were published. The Litaniae Lauretanae were printed in 1711 in Augsburg and contain litanies for Marian feasts and four Marian antiphons for the ecclesiastical year. The litany on this disc is written for Mary Visitation. It refers to the Virgin who gave birth to Jesus as Son of God, "which is why the score includes trumpets symbolizing the 'heir to the throne'" (Jürgen Ochs). Trumpets also appear in the last item of the programme, 'Regina coeli laetare', a Marian antiphon for the period from Easter to Whitsun, when Jesus's reign as King is celebrated. Again from the archive of the Order of the Knights of the Cross is the Missa Sancti Dominici, scored for four voices (soli and ripieni), two violins and bc. 

The Rastatter Hofkapelle perform and record the music of the former Rastatter court music director alongside music by other composers of the baroque era. It consists of eight singers with additional instrumentalists. They deliver very good performances, although sometimes a little more exaltation wouldn't do any harm. The fact that this an ensemble regularly works together imparts a strong unity of style. The solo parts are sung by members of the ensemble, and they do that very well. Only the basses have occasional problems and these are with the lowest notes of their parts. 

This is a very interesting and convincing presentation of music by a lesser-known and unjustly neglected composer whose religious works are of estimable quality. They should be performed more often. To those who would like to hear more I recommend a recording which is entirely devoted to compositions connected to the Order by Boni Pueri and Musica Florea, directed by Marek Stryncl (Supraphon SU 3534-2 231).

Johan van Veen

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf


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