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Giovanni Battista FERRANDINI (1710–1791)
Cantate per Passione
Liebste Mutter voll der Schmerzen
Concerto in F minor [8.56]
O spettacolo pur troppo funesto [25.06]
Quartet in G major [10.23]
Ecco quel tronco [20.05]
Elisabeth Scholl (soprano)
Echo du Danube
rec. 14-18 November 2005, Deutschlandfunk Sendsaal, Cologne, Germany
ACCENT ACC24181 [73.38]

Giovanni Ferrandini seems to have been something of a child prodigy. By the time he was 12 he had left his home town of Venice to take up a paid court appointment as oboist in Munich. What should be remarked upon is not just his age but that the Elector of Bavaria was paying him; this was an age when young people could be expected to take on the role of assistant or student without salary.
Ferrandini received a sound musical education and seems to have prospered in Munich. He was appointed Court Musician when he was 17 and delivered an opera every year. He went on to become Director of Chamber Music and taught singing to Princess Maria Antonia Walpurga, the Elector’s eldest daughter. On her marriage in 1747, the Princess took Ferrandini’s compositions with her to her new marital home in Dresden.
Amongst these was the cantata O spettacolo pur troppo funesto (Oh! Such a sombre spectacle). This piece is made rather striking by its unusual instrumentation. It is written for two viola da gamba, lute and organ. This use of rather old-fashioned instruments creates an interesting tension between the modern, classical idiom and the sound-world of the accompanying instruments. The results are extremely appealing with Ferrandini conjuring up some lovely instrumental textures.
The cantata is in five movements, a sequence of recitatives and arias. The sombre spectacle of the title is the ‘ingratitude, horrendous and outrageous from the sons of Adam against their Creator’. The text urges Christians to repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness. The final aria celebrates the happiness of the blessed in paradise.
The vocalist in this is Elisabeth Scholl. She clearly enjoys this music and puts over the cantata well. Unfortunately the top of her voice is apt to be a little wayward and this does tend to slightly mar the enjoyment.
The other main work on the disc is the cantata Ecco quel tronco, described as a sacred cantata for the holiest sepulchre. It was written for performance on Good Friday. The solo transverse flute part plays a significant role, almost another character in the dramatic dialogue. Again the cantata is a four movement sequence of recitatives and arias. The final aria has a remarkably wide range, challenging the singer with some spectacular leaps and virtuoso singing. Elisabeth Scholl is not quite comfortable here, again proving a little wayward.
Elisabeth Scholl and Echo du Danube start the recital with one of Ferrandini’s few settings in German, the aria Liebste Mutter voll der Schmerzen. Again he uses an unusual combination of instruments, including two oboe da silva (smaller relations of the oboe da caccia), two viola d’amore, two violette, viola da gamba and lute. The result is again to provide a fascinating, highly mobile instrumental texture.
Echo du Danube include two of Ferrandini’s instrumental compositions: a concerto for Flute and a String Quartet. The concerto harks back in form, with a basso continuo in the background, whereas the String Quartet looks forward to the classical era, a fascinating reflection of an era of great stylistic change.
Flautist Martin Sandhoff turns in a nicely toned solo part in the concerto, but in the quartet I found the string playing to have a slightly hard edge. That said, the musicians play with poise and style. I could have wished that the balance in the cantatas had favoured them a little more, as the voice is quite prominent.
The ensemble Echo du Danube takes its name from a collection of sonatas published by the gamba virtuoso Johann Schenck in 1709. The ensemble was founded by the Viennese gamba player Christian Zincke.
Ferrandini wrote music which is gracefully poised and attractively melodic. This attractive programme provides a good way to get to know his music. Perhaps the performances do not quite live up to the grace and poise of the music, but they are certainly creditable and repay investigation.
Robert Hugill



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