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Antonio ROSETTI (1750-1792)
Requiem in E flat major, H15 (1776) [23:10]
Symphony in E flat major, A23 [21:41]
Antonio ROSETTI/Meingosus GAELLE (1752-1816)
Gradual in E flat major, H24 [3:10]
Gradual in B major, H25 [4:15]
Antonio ROSETTI
Salve Regina, F85 [4:12]
Jesu, rex fortissimo, H31 [4:53]
Marcía Porter (soprano) Anna Havlíková (alto) Ondřej Socha (tenor) Matthew Markham (bass)
The Prague Singers, La Gioia
Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia/Johannes Moesus
rec. 2008, St Niklas, Prague
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical.com
ARS PRODUKTION 38095 SACD [61:21]

The title of this recording is “Requiem für Mozart” which seems to have an unfortunate irony given that Rosetti was to die the very next year, and in light of the circumstances surrounding Mozart’s own Requiem. However, the actual circumstances surrounding this work are rather more mundane: the work was written in 1776 to mark the death of the young Princess of Oettingen-Wallerstein, where Rosetti was employed as a double-bassist in the court orchestra. The Mozart connection is that it was performed at a memorial service for Mozart, arranged by a friend of Rosetti, in the city where he was held in higher esteem than perhaps anywhere else: Prague.

Antonio Rosetti (born Franz Anton Rösler) was born in northern Bohemia, given early musical training in a Jesuit school in Prague. He elected to become a professional musician, and served in the afore-mentioned court orchestra before becoming Kapellmeister at the court of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1789. He was even more prolific than Mozart, with fifty-plus symphonies, more than seventy concertos, similar numbers of chamber works and keyboard pieces, as well as twenty masses.

As far as I can tell, this is the first recording of any of those masses. His original work comprised only five movements, whereas the one used in the Mozart service has seven. The authorship of the two extra movements – the Benedictus and Agnus Dei – is uncertain, but it is fairly certain that they were not by Rosetti himself. The booklet notes differences in style to those of the mature Rosetti. I would suggest that there is an far more convincing logistical reason: when Mozart died, Rosetti was in the far north of Germany at the Mecklenberg court, and may not have even known the news by the time the service was held, nine days after Mozart’s death, let alone have time to write the new movements and get them to Prague. The work itself is much less solemn than most you will hear, being more celebration than sorrow. The four soloists have less to do than the choir, though the soprano has the solo role in the Offertorium. Whoever wrote the two extra movements didn’t have Rosetti’s light touch, but they do not seem out of place.

The symphony is very much from the late eighteenth-century mould, as exemplified in the splendid Chandos series Contemporaries of Mozart, a volume of which was dedicated to Rosetti (CHAN9567). It is unfailingly engaging music, but doesn’t linger long in the memory after finishing. It is further illustration, if such was needed, of the astonishing gifts of one Wolfgang Amadeus.

Of the four shorter works, the two Graduals were created by Gaelle, a Benedictine monk, by incorporating words from the Gospel of Matthew and Psalm 97 into re-configured movements from the E flat symphony on this disc. A Gradual is a responsorial chant that is sung after the reading of the Epistle during Mass. That being the case, I was expecting something quite calm and solemn. The first, with a solo part for soprano, was up-tempo and could have been extracted from an opera buffo of the period. The second, somewhat more sedate and for choir only, still sounded more like opera than church music. The Benedictine services at the Weingarten Abbey in what is now the German state of Baden-Württemberg in the late eighteenth century must have been far more lively than I would have imagined.

The Salve Regina is similarly more sprightly than others I have heard. It is believed to be an early work, and scored simply for soprano, two violins, viola and continuo. The final work, a hymn for choir, with orchestral accompaniment including timpani, maintains the unexpected tempo and atmosphere.

Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia was formed by members of the Czech Philharmonic in 2002. The strings number fourteen, producing a very light texture that suits this music. The two choirs, La Gioia who specialise in music of the era of Rosetti and The Prague Singers who perform more contemporary works, do a fine job. Of the four soloists, soprano Marcia Porter had the most to do, with solo parts in the E flat Gradual and the Salve Regina as well as in the Requiem. Unfortunately, she struggled with the high notes, having to force her voice, resulting in a shouty and ugly tone.

There are no revelations here, but Rosetti does show himself to be one of the better composers writing in the immense shadows cast by Mozart and Haydn.

David Barker

 

 




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