Tuesday 18 March 2014

Fortuna Scherzosa - outrageous fortune

Fortuna Scherzosa - 92.703
Fortuna Scherzosa: Ina Siedlaczek, Hamburger Ratsmusik: audite
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Mar 18 2014
Star rating: 4.0

Survey of baroque cantatas themed around the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

This new disc on the audite label from soprano Ina Siedlaczek and Hamburger Ratsmusik presents a selection of baroque cantatas, with Telemann's Fortuna Scherzosa, Amore heisst mich freudig lachen and Hoffnung placed alongside cantatas by Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, Johan Ulich, and Johann Philipp Krieger, all of which have texts which look at the fickleness of fortune or fate. You probably have not heard of most of the composers on the disc, their output has rather suffered from the depredations of time and war with not much surviving, but there are certainly some little gems to be found on this disc.

Philipp Heinrich Erlebach was born in East Frisia and became the director of music to the Count of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt in Rudolstadt from 1681 to 1714. Most of his manuscripts were destroyed in a fire at the palace which means only 70 of his works are known today. Des Gluckes Spile betrugen viele (Fortune's games are deceiving many) is from a volume of arias published by Erlebach. It is perkily delightful, with Siedlaczek displaying a finely focussed, narrow bore, bright lyric soprano with a fine straight clean edge to it. Here as elsewhere on the disc, her attention to the words is exemplary.

Johann Ulich was the Kapellmeister at the court of Zerbst between 1708 and 1742; his manuscripts were destroyed at the palace of Anhalt-Zerbst during the Second World War. His cantata Ihr hellen Sterne (You bright stars) is one of three to have come to light recently. Six short arias linked by recitatives, the singer wanders through a variety of moods. The result is charming, affecting and not uncomplicated; if the cantata doesn't mine the depths, it holds the attention and has some interesting moments. Another aria from Erlebach, Geduld kann uberwinden (Patience can overcome) has an expressive melody which wanders in a rather attractive manner.

Georg Philipp Telemann
Georg Philipp Telemann
Georg Philipp Telemann's cantata Fortuna Scherzosa was only recently re-discovered when the Berlin Sing-Akademie archive was found in Kiev. It probably dates from Telemann's early period at the Eisenach court (1708), and he may have written the text too! Again we have a sequence of three arias linked by recitatives, with Siedlaczek combining technical skill in the passagework with charm and drama.  Telemann's rather melodramatic little cantata Amor heisst mich freudig lachen (Love has me laugh with joy) pokes fun at the enthusiasm for all things Heloise (and Abelard) which ran through Europe in the 1720's. The opening aria is a delightful little number in which Telemann alternates duple and triple metres to striking effect, whilst the second aria has an imaginative bass line combined with a fascinating melody. The final aria goes with a lovely swing; all in all a delightful little discovery.

Johann Philipp Krieger
Johann Philipp Krieger
Johann Philipp Krieger has also been similarly unfortunate as only a fraction of his works have survived, though he was widely known and famous as Kapellmeister at the court of Saze-Wissenfels. An die Einsamkeit (To solitude) from from his opera Cephalus und Procriss and has a poised melody over a ground bass in a very Purcellian fashion.

Telemann's cantata Hoffnung (Hope) is from his Moralische Kantaten (1736), a group of works which try to impart enlightenment philosophy and reason in the form of music. It is quite short, just two arias separated by a recitative. The first aria attractively blithe, the second delightfully optimistic.

Finally, a last aria by Erlebach, Mein Sehnen is gestillt ([My yearning is satisfied] in a dance-like triple-time, alternating verses with instrumental ritornellos.

Siedlaczek has a nice feel for this music, bringing out the words when needed and showing good technical control. The sheer straightness and cleanness of her voice make it a very distinctive instrument, but she uses it intelligently and in a relaxed manner, though there were moments when I wished for rather more depth of tone. She is well accompanied by the various players from Hamburger Ratsmusik.

The CD booklet includes a fine pair of articles (in English and German) on the music and the texts but the texts themselves are only printed in German.

This disc assembles a group of lesser known German cantatas with some intelligent programming giving us an interesting set of meditations on the same philosophical thoughts. These were pieces meant to have the texts matter and be read, as much as the music. I'm not sure that I would want to listen to these pieces all the time, but the performances are exemplary and bring out the works' charm.

Philipp Heinrich Erlbach (1657 - 1714) - Des Gluckes Spiele, betrugen viele [5.21]
Johann Ulich (1677 - 1741) - Ihr hellen Sterne des Glucks[13.40]
Philipp Heinrich Erlbach (1657 - 1714) -Geduld kann uberwinden[5.32]
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 - 1761) - Fortuna Scherzosa [9.44]
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 - 1761) -Amor heisst mich freudig lachen [10.05]
Johann Philipp Krieger (1629 - 1727) - An die Einsamkeit [5.55]
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 - 1761) - Hoffnung[6.44]
Philipp Heinrich Erlbach (1657 - 1714) - Mein Sehnen ist gestillt[4.25]
Ingrid Siedlaczek (soprano)
Hamburger Ratsmusik
Recorded 14-16 May 2013, Abbey Church of Marienmuenster, Germany
audite 92.703 [61.39]
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