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Twelve Days of Christmas: Peter and Mary

Happy New Year! -- it's 1/1/11.

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Hasse, Sanctus Petrus et Sancta Maria Magdalena, K. Blaise, H. Kordes, V. Genaux, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, M. Hofstetter

(released on September 28, 2010)
Oehms OC 950 | 77'40"
Precious few are the occasions we have to mention the music of Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783). The work recorded here, for the first time (as far as I know), is a Latin oratorio performed at the Venetian Ospedale degl'Incurabili in the late 1750s. Like many short oratorios made for performance during Holy Week (as an alternative to that secular fad, opera), Hasse created the work as an introduction to his own setting of the penitential psalm Miserere, which follows it on this disc. Five Biblical characters discuss the terrible events in Jesus' life that are commemorated in Holy Week: principally, Mary Magdalen (the dulcet-toned soprano Kirsten Blaise) and St. Peter (honey-smooth countertenor Terry Wey), with contributions from Mary, Mother of James, Joseph of Arimathea, and Mary Salome (the latter featuring the best singing of the three, from mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux). The libretto (anonymous but based on relevant passages from the Gospels) and the musical forms are probably too close to Italian opera for modern taste as liturgical music, but there are gorgeous moments. The close of the oratorio, in which Peter begs the others not to leave him to go to visit the tomb of Jesus (we know what will happen there) but to stay and help him do penance by reciting the Miserere, is reminiscent of the function of troped dialogues like the Quem quaeritis as dramatic introductions to introits and other chants. Downsides of the recording include two less pleasing soloists and a lackluster performance of the chorus of the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, although the conducting of Michael Hofstetter and the crisp playing of his orchestra keeps things unified and interesting in texture and balance. Also, the booklet has only Latin text and a German translation, which may not be much help to some listeners.

1 comment:

jfl said...

Some really terrific moments in this music and recording! Easily good enough to kindly overlook any vocal imperfections.