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Franz Xaver RICHTER (1709-1789)
La Deposizione dalla croce di Gesú Cristo, Salvator nostro
Passion Oratorio in Two Parts (1748)
Kateřina Kněziková (soprano)
Jaroslav Březina (tenor)
Philippe Mathmann, Piotr Olech (countertenor)
Lenka Cafourková Duricová (soprano)
Czech Ensemble Baroque Orchestra & Choir/Roman Válek
rec. 2016, Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, Vranov u Brna.
SUPRAPHON SU4204-2 [2CDs: 112:00]

Franz Xaver Richter’s Requiem on Supraphon (review) was such a success that this new premiere recording of La Deposizione will be swiftly sought out by anyone who has become acquainted with its predecessor. La Deposizione is Richter's only Italian oratorio, taking on the subject of God's unconditional love and Christ's suffering on the cross as seen through his disciples and Maddalena; Mary Magdalene. It was performed in 1748 on Good Friday in the Mannheim court church of the Visitation of Our Lady, but as far as records show has never been heard again until now.

Franz Xaver Richter became a member of the renowned Mannheim orchestra in 1746, but despite being at the centre of musical progressiveness in Europe he held onto the baroque style. This he combined with elements of newer orchestral touches, but with counterpoint for the choruses and the conventions of recitativo the effect is more Pergolesi than Pugnani. There are however plenty of spicy harmonic touches in all corners of this remarkable oratorio, and with lively performing from everyone involved there is never a dull moment.

Recorded in a richly resonant church acoustic, the balance of the recording manages to convey detail and rhythmic impact while preserving the spacious quality of the venue. The soloists are all excellent, the orchestra colourful and vibrant. There are only three choruses, but these are true highlights, adding weight by bookending the first part and rounding off the finale with some superb music.

The libretto for La Deposizione is contemplative and lacking in action and overt dramatic contrasts. Given the subject matter you would expect this to be a work filled with gravitas and melancholy, but – some moments of tenderness and regret aside – the general impression is surprisingly jolly, with deeply mournful moments reserved for just a few settings. One of the disadvantages of the booklet is that the vocal texts, given in full in Italian, Czech and English, each have their own section rather than running in parallel. I find it useful to be able to follow the original alongside a translation, and while one can gain meaning from Richter’s detailed and expressive settings you’re never quite sure where you are in an aria while following in another language.

There are plenty of magnificent moments to point out, but Richter’s strengths are apparent in striking settings such as the Recitativo e accompagnato A sě pietoso oggetto that opens part 2. The harmonies here explore tension to the full, and the sharp contrasts of stabbing strings and sustained atmosphere create a dramatic microcosm of genuine power.

Once again, we are treated here to the genuine discovery of a forgotten masterpiece, and I would urge you to seek it out. Presentation is very good indeed, with a chunky booklet and the two CDs contained in card slipcases packaged in a slimline box with a foldout front cover.

Dominy Clements



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