Baroque in Hanover - court music
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Duetto IX: Conservate, raddopiate (HWV 185) [4:17]
Solitudini care, amata libertŕ (HWV 163), cantata for soprano and bc [12:17]
Charles BABELL (1636-1716)
8e Suite for harpsichord in c minor [8:31]
Agostino STEFFANI (1654-1728)
Vuol il Ciel ch'io sia legato, duet [3:47]
Nicolaus Adam STRUNGK (1640-1700)
Er scheuet sich nicht das Kammermägdgen Myrtalen zu lieben [2:19]
Das Bildnis seiner Verstorbenen kompt ihm im Traum wieder vor [3:02]
songs for solo voice [alto] and bc
Capriccio della Chiave A for organ [3:44]
Er widerräth der Rhodinis das Closter-Leben [3:08]
Nacht-Lied [2:51]
songs for solo voice [alto] and bc
O care catene ch'il piede stringete, duet [3:44]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sonata for viola da gamba and bc in e minor (TWV 41,e5) [7:46]
Antonio SARTORIO (1630-1680)
E tiranna la speranza, cantata for soprano and bc [1:55]
George Frideric HANDEL
Duetto X: Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi (HWV 187) [8:02]
Ensemble alla polacca (Iwona Lesniowska-Lubowicz (soprano), Stanislaw Gojny (theorbo, guitar), Paulina Kilarska (harpsichord, organ)) with Franz Vitzthum (alto), Petr Wagner (viola da gamba)
rec. 13-17 December 2009, Immanuelskirche, Wuppertal, Germany. DDD
Texts and translations included
ARS PRODUKTION ARS 38 076 [66:43]

This disc pays attention to music by composers who for some time worked at the court of Hanover, one of the main centres of music in Germany from the mid-17th century until the first decades of the 18th. Among the first composers of repute was Heinrich Schütz, who worked as Kapellmeister from 1639 to 1641. In the following decades there was an increase in the influence of French music. French musicians were attracted, but also Italian masters. The opera Orontea by Cesti was performed in 1678, and in 1689 a new large theatre opened with a performance of Enrico Leone by Agostino Steffani. He directed the opera until 1698.

The composers who acted as Kapellmeister reflect the French and the Italian influence: Antonio Sartorio from 1666 to 1675, the French oboist Jean-Baptiste Farinel from 1695 to 1710, who was succeeded by George Frideric Handel. Two years later Handel left for London and didn't return. In 1714 Duke Georg Ludwig became King George I of England, and his departure led to a decline of the chapel in Hanover.

The selection of composers for this disc mainly reflects the Italian influence in Hanover. Steffani composed at least eight operas for Hanover, but he was especially famous for his chamber duets. Two of them have been recorded here: Vuol il ciel and O care catene. Handel also wrote a number of duets, most of which were composed during his stay in Hanover. We hear Conservate, raddopiate and the better-known Tanti strali. Also included is his cantata Solitudini care, amata libertŕ which is from a later date and was written in London. Antonio Sartorio is represented with one very short cantata, E tiranna la speranza, which lasts less than two minutes, and is no more than a single aria.

The 8me Suite in c minor by Charles Babell is the only specimen of the French style at the court of Hanover. The composer is a rather unknown quantity, in contrast to his son William who was active in England as a harpsichord virtuoso. He arranged many arias from operas by Handel for the harpsichord. His father, who was of French birth and a professional bassoonist, did the same, when he arranged pieces by the likes of Lully and Charpentier for keyboard, probably as teaching material for William. Charles worked as a windplayer at the court from 1688 to 1690. The harpsichord suite recorded here is not authenticated; it is just attributed to Babell.

Not only foreigners were attracted to the court, also German composers like Clamor Heinrich Abel - grandfather of Carl Friedrich Abel - and Nicolaus Adam Strungk. His father was the famous organist Delphin Strungk. He worked in Hamburg and composed several operas, which he continued to do after his move to Hanover. He also wrote German strophic songs, and four of them - all for voice with basso continuo - are recorded here.

Lastly Telemann: he never had any position at the court, but when he was at the Gymnasium in Hildesheim, from 1697 to 1701, he regularly visited Hanover and here he became acquainted with the French style. The Sonata in e minor for viola da gamba and bc is from his collection Essercizii Musici. It is a specimen of the mixture of Italian and French elements which was preferred by most German composers of his time.

Elsewhere I have reviewed the first the disc of this ensemble, "Baroque in Poland", which comprises instrumental and sacred vocal music. I was impressed with the technical quality as well as the interpretation. This disc shows that the secular vocal music comes off equally well. Iwona Lesniowska-Lubowicz masters the Italian-style coloratura with impressive ease. The text expression is effective and there is tasteful ornamentation of the vocal lines. The cooperation with Franz Vitzthum is immaculate: their voices blend perfectly and they are truly congenial partners. Vitzthum delivers some nice contributions of his own in the four songs by Strungk. This is definitely a composer worthy of further exploration. The instrumentalists provide excellent support, and Petr Wagner gives a good account of Telemann's Sonata in e minor. Paulina Kilarska's performance of Babell's suite is stylish, with some rubato and a subtle application of notes inégales.

All in all, this is again an interesting and musically captivating disc by the Ensemble alla polacca. The fact that it contains several pieces which probably have never been recorded before, makes this disc all the more worthwhile. The liner-notes are to the point, and all lyrics are printed in the original language as well as an English translation.

Johan van Veen

An interesting and well-performed survey of the music at the court in Hanover around 1700.