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Rediscovered Treasures from Dresden
Concerto in A major for violin, strings and basso continuo [7.55]
Concerto in D minor for violin, strings and basso continuo [10.06]
Concerto in D major for violin, 2 oboes, 2 horns, bassoon, strings and basso continuo [8.36]
Concerto in F major for 5 obbligati [8.36]
Concerto in A minor for violin, strings and basso continuo ‘Concerto grosso de camera’ [11.45]
La Folia Barockorchester/Robin Peter Müller (solo violin & direction)
rec. 2016, Altes Stadtbad, Annaberg-Buchholz, Germany
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88985415902 [47.07]

For this album titled Rediscovered Treasures from Dresden early music specialist Robin Peter Müller has delved into the archives of Saxon State and University Library Dresden. He has selected concertos from the Schrank II collection of baroque instrumental works of the Dresden Hofkapelle from the first half of the eighteenth century; the period of the Saxon-Polish Union (1697–1763). Müller first investigated the Schrank II collection when he was aged around sixteen or seventeen and was especially drawn to those works with the identities of the composers unknown. Subsequently Müller has chosen five concertos from anonymous composers that mainly exist in the form of individual parts with only a few surviving in handwritten scores.

The background behind the wealth of works written for the Dresden Hofkapelle or court orchestra is well worth outlining. The golden age of music at the Dresden Court took place during the reigns of Elector of Saxony, Frederick Augustus I (reign 1694–1733) also known as Augustus the Strong and his son Frederick Augustus II (reign 1734–1763). Augustus the Strong’s conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism and election to the throne of Poland had significant consequences for the Dresden Hofkapelle. In 1709 Augustus the Strong revived the Saxon court at Dresden which led to a restructuring of the Hofkapelle, greatly increasing musical activities at the court, and engaged exceptional musicians from elsewhere in Europe. Augustus the Strong had a predilection for French music, opera and ballet. On the other hand, his son Frederick Augustus II, having spent some months in Venice on his Grand Tour, was drawn to Italian culture particularly Italian opera and this shift was advanced by engaging Italian musicians for the Dresden court. The flourishing music activities at Dresden Hofkapelle became world renowned under the direction of Kapellmeister Johann Adolf Hasse (1699–1783) and his colleague concert master Johann Georg Pisendel (1687–1755) who was a Vivaldi pupil and a member of the Hofkapelle from 1712.

Of the anonymous concertos on this album there is some speculation that the D major Concerto containing solo passages from Vivaldi’s D major Concerto ‘ll Grosso Mogul’, RV 208 might be entirely Vivaldi’s work. In addition, the F major Concerto catalogued as having have a missing solo violin part Müller contends might be a complete work. To my ears the A major Concerto could very easily come from Vivaldi’s hand and the A minor ‘Concerto grosso de camera’ at times reminds me of J.S. Bach.

Founded in 2007, Dresden-based La Folia Barockorchester is directed here from the baroque violin by artistic director Robin Peter Müller. Recently I reviewed Regula Mühlemann’s album Cleopatra Baroque Arias’ with La Folia Barockorchester on Sony (review). All sixteen musicians of La Folia play authentic instruments or modern copies with string instruments fitted with gut and using period bows. These engaging performances from La Folia, so full of detail, are often infused with the spirit of the dance and never feel rushed. It’s hard to fault the fresh, vibrant and buoyant playing supplying dance-like Allegros, and Adagios and Largos that feel calmly meditative or dreamily reflective. Soloist Robin Peter Müller plays with clean articulation and impressive fluency and his playing of the final movement Allegro assai of the A minor ‘Concerto grosso de camera’ is especially impressive. Most rewarding and probably the most successful score is the D major Concerto, so rich in colour and weight, with the two natural horns standing out quite gloriously.

Recorded at Altes Stadtbad Annaberg-Buchholz, the sound engineers have excelled, providing vivid clarity and a satisfying balance that all feels completely natural. In the CD booklet there is an informative essay titled ‘Schrank II – Anonymous concertos from the repertory of the Dresden Hofkapelle’ by Dr. Steffen Voss which makes fascinating reading. Also in the booklet, Robin Peter Müller gives a short interview titled ‘Anonymous – Or a plea for non-knowledge’. Furthermore there is a listing of La Folia’s players together with information as tothe make of instrument being played.

Outstandingly played by La Folia this is a fascinating album of baroque concertos ‘Rediscovered Treasures from Dresden’ on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.

Michael Cookson



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