The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 had not only political implications
but also changed the cultural landscape in Europe. Musicians from
what was once the Eastern Bloc had free access to the newest developments
in the performance of early music. It didn't take long before
they were founding their own ensembles and visiting the West,
no longer as students, but as interpreters in their own right.
But the 'early music movement' isn't just about performance practice,
it also relates to aspects of Europe's musical heritage which
so far have hardly been explored. Musicians and ensembles from
Eastern Europe started to research their own musical past, and
recordings of music by composers hitherto unknown are the result.
The present discs are evidence of this. Music
by Amando Ivančić was discovered
in the monastery of Jasna Góra in Poland,
and this has led to more extensive research.
Manuscripts with his music have been
found in many countries in Europe, including
Slovakia, Croatia and Hungary, but also
Germany and most recently Belgium. Such
a wide dissemination of music usually
indicates a great appreciation of the
composer. Therefore it is rather surprising
that he was completely unknown.
Very little is known for sure about his life.
He was baptised on 24 December 1727
in Wiener Neustadt; his father was of
Croatian origin (he came from a region
which now belongs to the Austrian Burgenland).
Ivančić joined the Pauline
Order in 1744 and adopted the name of
Amandus. Since 1755 he lived in the
Maria Trost Pauline Monastery near Graz.
He had close contacts with the Jesuits
from St Ägidius Cathedral in Graz, writing
music for them. And that is practically
everything that is known of his life.
Right now musicologists are putting together
a catalogue of his works. The present
discs are giving an idea about the character
and quality of his oeuvre. As one may
expect from a man of the church his
output is largely sacred, but the second
disc also contains two instrumental
works. As their titles suggest they
are stylistically close to the classical
era, whereas his vocal works contain
still strong baroque traits.
The sacred pieces on these discs are mainly
set for four voices, two violins, two
trumpets and bc. Now and then they reminded
me of the sacred music written in Austria
around 1700, by the likes of Biber and
Schmelzer. That is particularly the
case when the trumpets are used. The
music is often quite original in the
way he juxtaposes solo passages or duets
and tutti, or how he varies tempo and
rhythm. Ivančić also regularly
singles out specific parts of the text,
like "pax" and "miserere"
in the Gloria of the Missa in C Majore.
His music shows a thorough command of the tools a
composer of his time had at his disposal
in order to translate a text into music.
According to the booklets the recordings
for these two discs were made at about
the same time. It puzzles me that this
has resulted in performances which are
quite different. To be honest, the second
disc - which I listened to first - is
a major disappointment. While listening
I heard many interesting things, but
these were mostly spoilt by performances
which are adequate at best, but never
really good. Too often the intonation
of the players is suspect; there is
also a lack of dynamic contrast. The
solo passages are sung by members of
the ensemble (the booklet doesn't tell
who sings what) and their contributions
are mostly just not good enough. For
instance, in the 'Quia fecit' from the
Magnificat the soprano isn't able to
sing the top notes properly. The sound
of the ensemble as a whole is also unsatisfying,
partly because of a lack of really good
blending of the voices. As a result
this disc only gives a vague idea of
the quality of the music.
In comparison the first disc is much better.
Most solo passages are sung really well.
For instance, in the Gloria the duets
of tenor and bass and of soprano and
alto respectively as well as the soprano
solo are very good. Here the music really
comes to life. The sound of the ensemble
is better and so is the intonation of
the players. And in both vocal works
the dynamic contrasts are much better
worked out. The two divertimenti are
given energetic and flamboyant performances.
I therefore can only recommend the first disc; the second is probably
only relevant to those who are interested in unknown repertoire
regardless of how it is performed. Even though the results of
the exploration of Osppe's music are variable, we should be
grateful for this kind of project. It shows what a systematic
research of the archives of churches, monasteries and castles
Johan van Veen