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Cantate per Passione
Liebste Mutter voll der Schmerzen [8.25]
Concerto in F minor [8.56]
O spettacolo pur troppo funesto [25.06]
Quartet in G major [10.23]
Ecco quel tronco [20.05]
Echo du Danube
rec. 14-18 November 2005, Deutschlandfunk Sendsaal, Cologne,
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
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.
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