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The Music of the Habsburg Empire
Ars Antiqua Austria/Gunar Letzbor
rec. live 2001-07, Museum Behnhaus, Lübeck and Audienzsaal des Rathauses Lübeck
Notes but no texts or translations
PAN CLASSICS PC10311 [10 CDs: 609:02]

This 10-CD box reflects a project that lasted a number of years and explored the nature of Austrian Baroque music. The first six discs are largely devoted to the Imperial Court, the remaining four to the influences to which it was exposed. Music at the Viennese court is at the heart of the project but beyond that there is a clear attempt at the reclamation of such Habsburg figures as Daniel Georg Speer, Heinrich Schmelzer and Johann Joseph Fux as well as better known composers such as Muffat – alongside the composers who flourished in the closer and farthermost regions of the Empire. With a series of live recordings taking place over a decade this is Gunar Letzbor and Ars Antiqua Austria’s particular contribution to a still under-explored repertoire.

Each disc covers a particular country, but things are inevitably not hermetically sealed. Rather like the Empire itself borders are fluid and composers reappear under different country headings. Speer is a prominent example of this trait but there are a number of others. Letzbor is the violinist-director throughout and his ensemble is set up with varying personnel that reflects the passage of time over which the discs were made. There are numerous ‘guests’ - singers as well as instrumentalists, and they reflect their specialisms throughout the instrumental or vocal numbers.

It would be exhausting to take things on a track-by-track basis but some pointers may help to see if this historical-geographical project is to your liking. Slovakia divides into solid Baroque c.1700 with Johann Sigismund Kusser and Speer prominent – so too Pál Esterházy; but there is also the question of folkloric music in the Baroque era and that is not overlooked in the sequence of folk songs, some of which – especially from Southern Slovakia – are infused with the spirit of Hungarian Gypsy music. In volume two Slovenia proves more cosmopolitan, sporting a sophisticated roll call of instrumental composer including none other than Tartini as well as the little-known but fluently sprightly Divertimento in C by Amandus Ivanschiz. One of the gratifying things about this series of discs is how often fine but neglected composers are found represented by works that would sound hardly inferior to suites and sonatas by very much more established figures. A disc like this shows how the confluence of Slavic, Romance and Germanic traditions, often canalised by the Catholic Church, generated its own special culture.

The approach to the music of Hungary is via dances in the main, many of them found in collections in what is present-day Slovakia. Whether solo or consort the music is earthy and appealing but it is seen through the prism of modern-day folkloric music so that a number of the eighteenth-century folk melodies are made to sound more contemporary in feel than other such melodies throughout the set – a rather anomalous outcome, though I have to say that the music is appealing on its own terms. The Polish disc mixes Canzona, instrumental movements and ballet music. One also finds Silvius Leopold Weiss here with his Suonata L’Infedele. Violin music is mixed with vocal music – the latter dating from the time of the Catholic reforms of the seventeenth century – and our old friend Georg Daniel Speer crops up again with his confection of ‘alla Turca’ music to celebrate the Ottoman failures at the gates of Vienna in 1683. Here too rustic traditions are not forgotten and the selected music reflects both the extent and the particular special sounds of Polish folk instruments.

Bohemia – which here includes Moravia and Silesia as subjects of the Bohemian Crown, though Moravia has a disc to itself later - attracts a disparate array of composers. Some stayed briefly in Prague – Vivaldi, for instance who’s represented by his Trio in G, RV85 whilst others were longer residents. Alongside the sophisticated instrumental writing of Johann Losy, whose very affecting Lute sonata is worthy to sit beside those of Weiss, we find vigorous but none-too-technically exact vocals and some fulsome but equally uncertain horn pieces – Bohemian horn virtuosi being one of the diaspora’s great exports. It’s a feature of the set in fact that non-classical, deliberately rough vocals are used for the more rustic music whilst the religious and other more elevated secular music remains in the remit of professional classical singers.
Moravia introduces a series of programming conceits in which a kind of Divine Service is followed by a scene in a monastery cell and so on. These scenes are introduced in German in spoken text to provide a running commentary. As there are no texts and therefore no translations and as there are additionally no synopses or précis of this or indeed anything else in the 10 CDs, many listeners will be left high and dry in this disc. They may, of course, be left high and dry elsewhere, at least with the vocal music, but it matters less in that context than it does here. The fiddle dance music is very attractive and the ballet too. The music from Alessandro Poglietti is rare and worthy of preservation. However in its set-up this is the least satisfying and most problematic disc for those without German.

The intersection of the Habsburg Empire and greater Europe is explored in the remaining volumes. Spain is important for its development of the sarabande, passacaglia, chaconne and canario – all of which were later to be exported and integrated into music at the royal court in Vienna. The influence of the Spanish guitar on the development of the guitar in Austria is also pursued. In the disc devoted to Venice, an aristocratic republic of its own, Vivaldi and Albinoni loom large – but we hear too from anonymous composers as well as less-known ones such as Ferro, Ziani and Lampugnani. Half of the disc devoted to Rome is taken up with Carlo Ambroglio Lonati’s Ciaccone from his 1701 collection of twelve sonatas for violin and basso continuo. It’s interesting to contrast it with Tartini’s music but also to consider the influence of Roman organ music on composers north of the Alps. The Toccata VIII in G by Johann Caspar Kerll is an especially succinct and excellent example and Muffat is known to have been strongly influenced by music in Rome. In fact Muffat reappears in the final disc, which centres on music in Paris. The Bourbons were open to the kind of pan-European pollination offered by Muffat but also by Wenzel von Radolt and Johann von Ehrenstein. Austrian composers such as these were in their turn influenced by French examples and a spirit of cross-fertilization took hold, which is celebrated in this final volume of the ten.

Each disc is self-contained and the box is itself a consolidation of discs that have been previously issued. It would have been ideal for texts to have been included, and for a scholarly text to have elucidated and examined the works – including those that are, perhaps, more red herring than schnitzel and carp. A spirit nonetheless of adventure and communicative enterprise has clearly attended on this decade-long project and, imperfect though it sometimes is, it covers a lot of ground. It has unearthed splendid music, restored, sifted and refined – and presented the evidence in lively and often adroit performances.

Jonathan Woolf

CD1 Slovakia [56:14]
Johann Sigismund KUSSER (1660-1727)
from Suite No.1 (Festin des Muses,1700) [10:12]
Pál ESTERHÁZY (1635-1713)
O Mors (Harmonia Caelesti, 1711) [3:04]
Samuel Friedrich CAPRICORNUS (1628-1665)
Sonata III ŕ 3 (Continuazione della ben armonica Musica da Tavola e Svago) [8:56]
Georg Daniel SPEER (1636-1707)
from Gazzetta turco-musicale I [12:45]
Folk Music from Slovakia rooted in the Baroque Era [20:37]

CD2 Slovenia [55:57]
Isaac POSCH (c.1587-1622-23)
from Musicakische Tafelfreudt, 1621 [20:02]
Johann Baptist DOLAR (c.1620-1673)
Suite I (Balletti ŕ 4) [4:04]
Suite II (Balletti ŕ 4) [7:01]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Sonata VII in A minor [22:25]
Amandus IVANSCHIZ (fl. mid-c18)
Divertimento in C major [7:58]
Wenzel Raimund BIRCK (1718-1763)
Concerto ex C [12:06]

CD3 Hungary [73:56]
Hungarian Dances of the Eighteenth Century [7:01]
Gregor Joseph WERNER (1693-1766)
Alma redemptoris mater [3:03]
Regina coeli [2:19]
Johann Joseph FUX (c.1659-1741)
Sinfonia a 3 ex C [5:43]
Pál ESTERHÁZY (1635-1713)
Jesu parve: Jesum ardentibus: O quam dulcis es: Ave dulcis virgo [8:49]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
from Zingarese per il Clavi Cembalo: Dances I and II [4:00]
Wolfgang EBNER (c.1611-1665)
Sonatina [3:49]
Georg Daniel SPEER (1636-1707)
from Musicalisch-Türckischer Eulenspiegel [9:48]
Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (c.1620/23-1680)
La bella zingara [7:58]
Danza ungherese [1:01]

CD4 Poland [53:35]
Marcin MIELCZEWSKI (d.1651)
Canzona [8:31]
Video caelos apertos (Communiones totius anni, 1651) [3:37]
Heinrich DÖBEL (1651-1693)
Sonata in D [10:34]
Johann NAUWACH (?1595-?1644)
Tempesta di dolcezza (Libro Primo di Arie passeggiate, 1623) [2;17]
Silvius Leopold WEISS (1686-1750)
Suonata L’Infedele [12:23]
Georg Daniel SPEER (1636-1707)
from Musicalisch-Türckischer Eulenspiegel [12:18]
Dances (Cracow library ms) [6:00]

CD5 Bohemia [64:37]
Horn Solo c.1700 St Hubert Lied [1:23]
Horn Solo c.1700 [1:15]
Sonata a 3 [5:24]
Jägerlieder c.1700 (Kloster Strukov) [6:31]
Jägerlieder c.1700 (Kloster Strukov) [5:11]
Caffe-Music: Responsorium ad querelam Rustici [3:24]
Gottfried Heinrich STÖLZEL (1690-1749)
Enharmonische Sonata in C minor for harpsichord [5:28]
Johann Anton LOSY (c.1650-1721)
Suite in G for solo lute [11:40]
Franticek Václav HABERMANN (1706-1783)
Konzert in D for two horns, two violins and bass continuo [7:44]
Antonín REICHENAUER (1694-1730)
Trio in D [6:38]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Trio in G for lute, violin and bc [9:44]

CD6 Moravia [75:46]
With interspersed readings to form a Divine Service;
Kristian Godefridus HIRSCHMENTZEL (1638-1703)
from Orpheus in Sylvis [7:28]
Saltus Civilis: Saltus Rusticanus: Saltus Nobilis (1745) [3:19]
Partita 4ta [4:25]
Songs (Bruno ms) [5:07] [5:04]
National tunes [7:23]
Lucille, datam coelo [1:24]
Hungarian Dance [(Brno ms) [8:16]
Pohreb sedláka (Brno ms) [8:11]
Alessandro POGLIETTI
Aria Allemagna con alcuni Variazioni sopra l’Eta della Maestŕ Vostra (1677) [7:47]

CD7 Spain [57:31]
Nicola MATTEIS (c.1677-1737)
Chaconne battle music from Sesostri, Re di Egitto (1717) [5:45]
La dia Spagnola battle music rom Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena (1719) [3:10]
La dia Spagnola [3:37]
King LEOPOLD I (1640-1705)
Sarabanda and Quando el Alba (Aria of Euridice) from Extremes en musica de Orfeo y Euridice [5:10]: Por mas que, Moriste ninfa bella and Deidades del Absimo from Extremes en musica de Orfeo y Euridice [9:23]
Gaspar SANZ (1640-1710)
Lantururu [1:34] Paradertas [2:05] Chaconne [3:00] from Instruccion de Musica sobra la Guitarra Espanola (1674)
Giovanni Maria PAGLIARDI (1737-1802)
Comedia-Espana from El Segreto a Voces (1671) [4:02]
Johann Adam LOSY VON LOSINTHAL (1645-1721)
Ciaconna [2:45]
Antonio Maria VIVIANI (c. 1639-1683)
Potpourri from El Prometeo (1672) [13:30]
A las ninas de tus osos; Si callo Anardo mi pena from Cantilenae hispanica linqua compositae [3:28]

CD8 Venice  [67:57]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Sonata in D for violin, oboe and organ RV779 [15:05]
Augeletti, vuoi col canto, from Lungi dal vago volto RV680 [10:16]
Canzonette da Battello from Raccolta del Gondoliere; composed by Hasse and Ventian composers (1735) [11:06]
Marco Antonio FERRO (c.1600-1662)
Sonata for violin and theorbo (1649) [4:09]
Marc’Antonio ZIANI (1653-1715)
Alma redemptoris mater for soprano, violin and bc [6:56]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1750)
Sonata for oboe and bc [9:31]
Giovanni Battista LAMPUGNANI (1708-1788)
Bel placer Saria d’un Core; ballad (1735) [11:07]

CD9 Rome [53:00]
Johann Casper KERLL (1627-1693)
Toccata VIII in G [3:43]
Canzona VIin G [4:24]
Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1682)
Sinfonia in D [8:35]
Passacaglia de Monsieur Muffat [6:50]
Toccata for harpsichord [4:18]
Carlo Ambrogio LONATI (c.1645-?1710)
Ciaconne for violin and bc (1701) [25:05]

CD10 Paris [50:29]
Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704)
Fasciculus II ‘Laeta Poesis’ from Florilegium Secondum (1698) [11:12]
Wenzel Ludwig Freiherr von RADOLT (1667-1716)
Suite from Die Aller Treüste Verschwigneste (1701) [14:21]
Johann Jakob Stupan von EHRENSTEIN (1664-1739)
Overture in D from Rosetum Musicum (1702) [23:58]
Johann Joseph FUX (1660-1741)
Aria [1:32] Minuet [1:15] Marche des Ecurieus [1:09] from Overture in C (1701) [1:32]
Rupert Ignaz MAYR (1646-1712)
Gavotte from Suite in B (1692) [0:42]
Benedikt Anton AUFSCHNAITER (1665-1742)
Bourée and Gigue from Serenade in G (16950 [2:03]
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Prelude pour la nuit [4:14]



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