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Johan Adam FABER (c1692-1759)
Missa Maria Assumpta [40:57]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in a minor (RV 431) [8:36]
Terra Nova Collective/Vlad Weverbergh
rec. deSingel, Antwerp, no date provided
Texts not included
ET'CETERA KTC1597 [49:35]

Once in a while a disc lands on my desk with music by a composer I had never heard of. Johan Adam - or Joannes Adamus Josephus - Faber has no entry in New Grove and very little about him is known. He was born around 1692 in Augsburg and died in Antwerp. It is assumed that he worked for some time in Mainz. In Antwerp he was admitted as a tenor at the Cathedral in 1720. He may have moved to Antwerp at the instigation of his younger brother Jan Frederik, who worked as the Cathedral's organist. He seems to have mastered several instruments, which he played in private concerts, together with his brother at the harpsichord. In 1728 he was ordained a priest.

Only three works from his pen are known: two masses, among them the Missa Maria Assumpta, and the motet Quam dilecta. The mass which is the subject of the present disc - comprising Kyrie, Gloria and Credo - is remarkable for its instrumental scoring: two recorders, transverse flute, clarinet, oboe, two violins, viola, two cellos and violone. The score also includes a basso continuo part for both harpsichord and organ. As it was common at the time that one musician played several instruments, the recorder parts are notated in the violin parts; the parts for transverse flute and oboe were also played by the same performer.

Obviously the most notable aspect of the instrumental scoring is the inclusion of a clarinet. At the time Faber composed his mass this was a very new instrument. It is assumed that it was developed by Johann Christoph Denner of Nuremberg in the early years of the 18th century. As Faber was born in nearby Augsburg, he may have become acquainted with this new instrument during his formative years. The clarinet should not be identified with the chalumeau; the obbligato parts in this mass are specifically intended for the clarinet.

Three sections of the mass include an obbligato clarinet part. The first is 'Gratias agimus', a solo for soprano, with flute, clarinet and cello I, plus violins and viola, playing pizzicato. The second is 'Qui tollis peccata mundi', which is a solo for alto, two recorders, clarinet and harpsichord, without a string bass. The last is the Crucifixus, a solo for tenor with two recorders, clarinet and two cellos, and harpsichord in the basso continuo. These scorings show that we have to do here with a quite unusual piece. In his liner-notes Vlad Weverbergh admits that this work raises many questions, which can't be answered yet. One of them is what may have motivated Faber to write a piece with such an unusual scoring.

As far as the vocal parts are concerned: the 22 sections are divided over solo voices and tutti. It seems that the mass was intended for a total of eight voices. In the episodes for five voices the soprano part is split into soprano I and soprano II, whereas the other parts refer to two voices, alto, tenor and bass, each with an additional ripieno. For this recording the performers have decided to use a somewhat larger ensemble: four solo voices and a group of three sopranos, and two singers for the parts of alto, tenor and bass.

This mass by Faber is a most interesting and musically compelling piece and makes me curious about his other mass and his motet. It is to be hoped that they will be available on disc at some time. The performances are very good: the soloists all have very nice voices and sing their solos beautifully. The clarinet parts are obviously especially interesting, and these are given fine performances by Vlad Weverbergh.

The addition of Vivaldi's Concerto in a minor for oboe is a bit odd. There is little or no connection between Vivaldi and Faber and this concerto is one of Vivaldi's best known for the oboe. That said, Benoît Laurent delivers a very good performance.

It is Faber's mass which is the main attraction of this disc. I urge anyone who likes to broaden his horizon to investigate it, and especially lovers of the clarinet should add this disc to their collection.

Johan van Veen


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