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Philipp Heinrich ERLEBACH (1657-1714)
Süße Freundschaft, edles Band
Overture No. 2 in B flat major [16:05]
Aria: Meine Seufzer [7:13]
Sonata Terza in A major [14:02]
Aria: Trocknet euch ihr heißen Zähren [6:34]
Overture No. 4 in D minor [15:31]
Duet: Süße Freundschaft, edles Band [5:16]
Miriam Feuersinger (soprano)
Franz Vitzthum (counter-tenor)
Capricornus Consort Basel/Peter Barczi
rec. 10-13 February 2012, Kirche “Helig Kreuz”, Binningen, Switzerland

Philipp Heinrich Erlebach is one of those unfortunates whose name, for a number of reasons, has been overlooked by the passage of time. He was music director at the court of Rudolstadt in Thuringia for 33 years, a position which was no doubt entirely satisfactory, but meant his music was produced in provincial isolation. No only this, but almost all of his work was lost to fire. Listening to the music on this very fine CD we can only lament at this loss. Despite the narrow circles of his post Erlebach was apparently well aware of the music of his contemporaries. Right from the start you gain a sense of fizzing artistic energy and refinement in the French-styled Ouverture No. 2, heard here in its première recording.
By introducing a representative selection Erlebach’s extant compositions the Capricornus Consort Basel has done us proud, performing with a stunning sense of detail and elegant period style. The first of two secular arias, Meine Seufzer or ‘My sighs, my lament’, is given velvety and poignant expression by soprano Miriam Feuersinger. Trocknet euch ihr heißen Zähren or ‘Dry up, ye heated tears’ is sung by countertenor Franz Vitzthum with one of the finest and most natural sounding countertenor voices I’ve heard for a while. Sounding more feminine than masculine, the final duet, Süße Freundschaft, edles Band or ‘Sweet friendship, precious bond’, you can hardly tell which voice is which, so well matched are their timbres.
These beautiful arias are divided by a Sonata Terza, one of a set of six trio sonatas, this example being a suite of six richly rewarding movements including a fine Ciaconne. The Ouverture No. 4 is as entertaining as No. 2, inviting the imagination to conjure the spectacle of formal dances in candle-lit halls. It is hard to describe the qualities which make these performances so special, but a perfect balance between melodic strings and a deeply enriching harmonic foundation of plucked and keyboard continuo goes a long way in this context.
Of the few Erlebach recordings floating around the catalogues you might find Trio Sonatas played rather well by the Chicago Baroque Ensemble on the Centaur label CRC2323, further Ouvertures and sonatas from the Berliner Barock Compagney on Capriccio C67074, which are nicely performed but a little distant and awash with acoustic when it comes to the recording. Some gorgeous cantatas can be found on the CPO label (see review), and there is some further chamber music from the Linn label which I haven’t heard.
If you know and love any of the above recordings you will really like this Christophorus disc, and if you are just embarking on your Erlebach anabasis then this is a fantastic place to start. With a perfect recording, ideal performances and fine presentation, this is a disc to treasure.
Dominy Clements