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Florian Leopold GASSMANN (1729-1774)
Opera Overtures
La notte critica (The Critical Night) Hill 143 (1768) [6.51]
Gli uccellatori (The Birdcatchers) Hill 123 (1759) [5.08]
Filosofia ed amore (Philosophy and Love) Hill 125 (1760) [5.51]
La casa di campagna (The Country House) Hill 65 (1773) [5.15]
La contessina (The Young Countess) Hill 153 (1770) [7.50]
Il viaggiatore ridicolo (The Ridiculous Traveller) Hill 137 (1766) [7.13]
Il filosofo innamorato (The Philosopher in Love) Hill 157 (1771) [6.03]
L’amore artigiano (Love in the Workplace) Hill 138 (1767) [7.18]
Un pazzo ne fa cento (One Madman Makes Many) Hill 127 (1762) [5.26]
Le pescatrici (The Fisherwomen) Hill 159 (1771) [6.33]
Eclipse Chamber Orchestra/Sylvia Alimena
rec. George Washington Masonic Memorial, Alexandria, Virginia, USA, 24 October 2006, 12 March 2007. DDD
Booklet notes in English and German, artists’ biographies in English only
NAXOS 8.570421 [64.10]
Experience Classicsonline


Florian Leopold Gassmann was a German-speaking composer of Bohemian origin. He was born in Brüx which is now Most in the Czech Republic. He had a relatively short life and died unexpectedly at the age of forty-four from complications following an accident where he fell from a carriage. Gassmann composed in various genres from chamber music to oratorio but he is better known for his operas, which were rather popular in his day. Nowadays, his music seems to be amongst the most neglected from the transition between the Baroque and Classical periods.

The scores of most of Gassmann’s operas survive to the present in libraries all over Europe, which is proof of his popularity at the time. His works were performed successfully as far apart as Copenhagen and Lisbon. Like Gluck, who was fifteen years his senior, Gassmann insisted on the integrity of the plots and chose his librettos carefully. He often set to music works by Goldoni (1707-1793) and Metastasio (1698-1782), two of the greatest writers of the time. Gassmann enjoyed great success in Venice from 1757 to 1762 where he lived, composing a new opera each year, mostly for the famous Venetian Carnival season; however, his better known and arguably most memorable operas were composed in Vienna, after he was summoned to the Viennese court, in 1763, to become ballet composer and successor to Gluck. His contract also included the composition of stage works and it was here that he wrote Il viaggiatore ridicolo, L’amore artigiano and La contessina, his most popular operas; all three are comedies (dramma giocoso), set to librettos based on works by Carlo Goldoni. The pinnacle of Gassmann’s career was surely reached in March 1772 when he was appointed Hofkapellmeister (court composer), possibly not only in recognition of his attributes as a composer but also for founding the Tonkünstlersozietät (Society of Musical Artists), created to organise musical events for the general public in Vienna and to care for widows and orphans of its deceased members and musicians. 
Gassmann’s music does not have the dramatic qualities of Mozart - still only a teenager at the time of Gassmann’s death - or the originality of Haydn - Gassmann’s contemporary and only three years younger - but his operas are elegant, graceful pieces, full of cheerful tunes, delicate orchestration and lyrical lines. Their overtures were written, as was customary in those days, in three movements following the fast-slow-fast pattern.

This CD from Naxos brings to the public’s attention the overtures of ten of Gassmann’s operas. For this fact alone, it is a commendable work and, at only just over £5, also very good value for money.

The Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, led by its music director, Sylvia Alimena, applies brightness and joy, demonstrating very effectively the composer’s ability to write well-crafted, rather pretty music in a style that was attractive in his lifetime. Alimena who together with another twenty-two of her colleagues at the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington formed the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, has had a distinguished career both as a conductor and as a French horn player. Her interpretation of these overtures does full justice to the composer, expressively extracting the typical cheerfulness of this music in charming, attractive and extremely pleasant performances.

I thoroughly enjoyed Gassmann’s music of which I knew little and the interpretation of Alimena with the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra. All overtures are delivered with meticulous care, clear sound and harmony, particularly La notte critica where the enjoyment of the musicians is obvious and rather contagious when one listens to it; La casa di campagna, Gassmann’s last opera, a beautiful, picturesque piece where especially its third movement, with its well depicted rhythm, will make you tap your feet and La contessina that is both charming and completely delightful.  

As always, Naxos continues to record works of quality by neglected composers or to bring us forgotten compositions by better known composers at affordable prices and with very good sound quality. Their recordings may not always be memorable but their commitment to music is never in doubt. This is a feel-good CD that will put a smile on one’s face during a moment of bleakness or a depressive mood through the dark, rainy days of the British winter!

Margarida Mota-Bull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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