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Johann Caspar Ferdinand FISCHER (1656-1746)
Musica sacra

Concertus de Santa Cruce (c.1701) [14:18]
Missa Sancti Dominici [17:53]
Lytaniae Lauretanae VI – Honori Visitationis B.V. Mariae (c.1711) [7:05]
Vesperae seu Palsmi Vespertini pro toto Anno (c.1701) [20:34]
IV Antiphonae pro toto Anno – Antiphona III Regina coeli laetare (c.1711) [3:58]
Rastatter Hofkapelle/Jürgen Ochs
rec. Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, October 2006. DDD 
CARUS 83.172 [64:36]

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Born in Bohemia in 1656 Fischer’s early musical educative experiences seem to have been lost. He was at the Piarist College in Schlackenwerth and clearly travelled. But our next substantive detail is that by 1690 he was court conductor at Sachsen-Lauenburg. The complexities of the marriages, regencies and instabilities of late seventeenth century nobility are briefly alluded to in the notes but what matters, as far as Fischer is concerned, is that the bulk of his printed compositions date from the years 1690-1715.
Life as the Kapellmeister of the Margrave of Baden entailed its usual quota of ecclesiastical commissions but he also wrote numerous works for harpsichord between 1696 and 1698. From the sound of them they appear to be based variously on French models or generic dance pieces called Blumen-Büschlein, or Musical Posies.
The sacred works presented by Carus are all heard in their first ever recordings. Concertus de Santa Cruce, provisionally dated to c.1701, is an offertory piece but has a celebratory, cantata-like feel. The soloists here, as elsewhere, are all drawn from the choir and they make for a most well-balanced and adroit ensemble, with a practised blend. By far the longest of the four movements is the O beatissima, which opens with a long tenor part. This is the heart of Fischer’s inspiration, as he rolls out pliant and slowly moving expressive lines – modest but highly effective.
Intended for Sunday services and for Advent the Missa Sancti Dominici is written for four solo singers (and ripieni) two violins and a basso continuo. The forces may be small but there’s no diminution in Fischer’s skill in handling what is essential conventional material. It’s the Sanctus that sees the greatest reserves of buoyancy and elation and the richest sound. He also wrote eight Litanies of which the sixth -Lytaniae Lauretanae VI – Honori Visitationis B.V. Mariae – was written for the Visitation of Mary, held on 2 July. Brief though it is – it lasts seven minutes – it’s distinguished by the celebratory use of trumpets, long associated with the symbolism of the Heir to the Throne. Another smaller scale work is the Antiphona III Regina coeli laetare, probably written in 1711 and once more crafted with skill and care.
Vesperae seu Palsmi Vespertini pro toto Anno is an especially engaging affair very well laid out for the forces involved – choir, soloists, strings and bass continuo. Of the six compact movements the one that most immediately impresses is the Laudate Dominum, which reveals Fischer’s flair in layering of attacks and his discretion in not making officious demands of his choral forces. They’re not without certain difficulties but not ones that could rank as unwelcome or unsympathetic.
The performers and direction are equally attractive; small in scale but not neglectful of pitch or tonal blend. The small accompanying group plays with convincing musicality. On this showing Fischer was a resourceful and attractive composer – no innovator but no stick-in-the-mud Kapellmeister either.
Jonathan Woolf

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