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Antonio SALIERI (1750-1825)
Strictly Private
Diana Tomsche (soprano)
Esther Valentin (mezzo-soprano)
Heidelberger Sinfoniker/Timo Jouko Herrmann
rec. 2019, Astoria-Halle, Walldorf, Germany
Sung texts provided. No translations.

Hänssler Classic has collaborated on this release with Salieri authority Timo Jouko Herrmann and the Heidelberger Sinfoniker. The selection of works spans twenty-six or so years; the album contains mainly cantatas, interspersed with three orchestral works. In the notes, Herrmann explains that Salieri wrote these pieces for circulation amongst his circle of friends, as opposed to compositions intended for the imperial court at Vienna, hence the title ‘Salieri - Strictly Private’. Six of the eight works are world première recordings. In addition, Herrmann has prepared a reconstruction of Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia (Freudenlied) for small orchestra.

Salieri was born in Legnano in Northern Italy. As a teenager, he was taken to Vienna where he met his future mentor, the composer Gluck, and Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor. In Vienna, then one of Europe’s foremost cultural centres, Salieri embarked on a career at the imperial court. After impressing Joseph II with his opera Armida (1771), he was appointed Kapellmeister, director of the Imperial Opera.

Eight singers perform on this album. Soprano Diana Tomsche and mezzo-soprano Esther Valentin sing the solo parts. Tomsche reveals her bright, clear soprano, a small yet highly effective voice. Valentin’s smooth and creamy toned mezzo-soprano is impressive, with such a lovely command of diction. Specialists in historically informed performance practice, the Heidelberger Sinfoniker play using modern instruments with metal strings and modern bows; only the horns and trumpets (if needed in certain compositions) are the period instruments. The orchestra has gained experience from their ongoing cycle of Haydn symphonies (commenced in 1999), so they are completely at home with music of the classical period; these Salieri works seem ideal repertoire. Conductor Timo Jouko Herrmann and his players lavish considerable attention on these works, and the performances are fresh and alert.

The opening Italian cantata Tu sai, Germana amata from 1799, a striking three-section work which lasts only six minutes, is known as the ‘little cantata for a Silver Wedding’. It seems that Salieri write it it for a Schmidtmayer family celebration. To honour their parents, the Schmidtmayer sisters would sing the two solo parts; Tomsche and Valentin sing a blithely charming duet Secondate i nostri affetti. Of the three instrumental pieces, I admire the Cantabile in G major for oboe and small orchestra. Little is known about this single-movement work written around 1773 and lasting almost seven minutes. Oboist Andrius Puskunigis plays this cheerful Cantabile quite splendidly. The cantata Deh mira, oh Nice, which Salieri wrote around 1780, stands out from the pack. This captivating four-movement work is full of sunny and joyful expression. The final work on the album is the cantata Il ciel cortese from 1777. In the central movement, Caterina and Anna’s duet Nostri preghi alzino il volo, the two soloists perform delightfully, and their voices blend together exquisitely.

The sound has a satisfying clarity and balance. Conductor Herrmann’s booklet essay ‘Salieri - Strictly Private’ is invaluable, with helpful information about each work. German and Italian sung texts are provided in the booklet but sadly there are no English translations. This album of cantatas by Salieri, a composer too often ignored, is certainly worth investigating.

Michael Cookson

Cantata, Tu sai, Germana amata* (1799)
1. Tu sai, Germana amata (Allegro) [1:03]
2. Secondate i nostri affetti (Andante con moto) [2:03]
3. Si onori, e festeggi (Allegro) [3:04]
4. Cantabile G-Dur for oboe and orchestra (c. 1773) [6:46]
5. La Preghiera sudditta (Prayer) - Gott! erhalt' zu unsrer Wonne*
(Andante un poco sostenuto) (c. 1790) [2:56]
Freudenlied (Song of Joy) - Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia (Canzone a Fille) (1785) KV 477a
6. Lascia la greggia (Andante pastorale) [1.23]
7. Quell' agnelletto candido (Andante) [1:23]
8. Lascia la greggia (Larghetto) [1:28]
9. Prayer for orchestra, Fragment of a sacred opera*
(Andante devoto d-moll) (c. 1790) [3:01]
Cantata, Deh mira, oh Nice* (c. 1780)
10. Deh mira, oh Nice (Andante con moto) [3:03]
11. Tenero cor (Larghetto) [2:11]
12. Ah! ch'or m'aveggo (Allegretto) [1:30]
13. D'un cor figlial, e grato (Andante un poco sostenuto) [3:40]
Serenata F-Dur* (date unknown)
14. Larghetto maestoso [2:57]
15. Andantino [1:14]
16. Menuett: Arioso - Trio [2:31]
17. Finale: Presto [3:57]
Cantata, Il ciel cortese* (1777)
18. l ciel cortese (Allegretto) [3:59]
19. Vivi, pur felice ognora (Larghetto maestoso) [4:38]
20. Si onori, e festeggi (Allegro) [2:21]
World premiere recordings*


Diana Tomsche, soprano (solo 1-3, 5, 6-7, 18-20)
Esther Valentin, mezzo-soprano (solo 1-3, 5, 10-13, 18-20)
Miriam Burkhardt (soprano), Barbara R. Grabowski (alto), Florian Löffler (tenor), Thomas Jakobs (tenor), Philipp Schädel (bass), Markus Lemke (bass)
Heidelberger Sinfoniker / Timo Jouko Herrmann
Andrius Puskunigis, solo oboe (4)

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