Reviews

GMCD 7251/52 – La Passione – Stabat mater C minor by Johann Simon Mayr

Vocalensemble Ingolstadt, Georgisches Kammerorchester Ingolstadt, Franz Hauk – Director & Harpsichord

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.4.2003

Die Wahrheit wird siegen
Simon Mayrs Opern und Oratorien sind origineller als gedacht
Das Teatro Verdi in Triest ist ein prachtvolles Hufeisen aus Logen, Gold und Rot. Zwischen 1992 und 1997 aufwendig restauriert, sollte zum zweihundertsten Geburtstag die eigene Geschichte den Spielplan beleben und zwar in Gestalt jeder „Ginevra di Scozia“ von Johann Simon Mayr, mit der das Haus im April 1801 eröffnet worden war. Es wurde daraus mehr als eine Ausgrabung: Eine Hörschule, die jetzt durch Veröffentlichung des Mitschnitts jedermann besuchen kann.
Wer in Lexika unter Mayr nachschläft, erntet immer noch moderat Vernichtendes. Falls der Komponist der 1763 in einem oberbayerischen Nest bei Ingolstadt zur Welt kam und ab 1789 in Italien lebte, überhaupt auftaucht. Dabei hatte ihm schon Ludwig Schiedenmair wissenschaftliche Aufmerksamkeit gewidmet und das von Carl Dahlhaus und Nobert Miller herausgegebene Kompendium „Europäische Romantik in der Musik“ befreite Mayr endlich vom leeren Gerede des „Kleinmeisters“, interpretiert ihn aus seiner Zeit heraus.
Mayr, dessen „Ginevra“ einmal zu den meistgespielten Opern des frühen 19. Jahrhunderts gehört hatte, schrieb mitten in einer grossen Umbruchphase der Operngeschichte. Er hatte Mozarts Ensembles, Glücks Pathos, Haydns Orchestersatz, natürlich auch Cherubini und die französische Rettungsoper studiert und legte den Grundstein für etwas ganz anderes: die Nachtszenen von Donizetti, für Bellinis Romantic, Rossinis Crescendowirbel, das malende und kommentierende Orchester. Ohne Spekulation liesse sich ein Bogen spannen von Mayr zu Verdis „Trovatore“, sogar zu Schumanns „Genoveva“. Ein Mann zwischen allen Stühlen und Stilen, mehr Evolutionär als Revolutionär.
„Ginevra di Scozia“ muss man freilich genauer betrachten, um die zukunftsweisenden Qualitäten zu erkennen. Die Oper sprengt die Grenzen, die ihr Untertitel „Dramma serio eroico“ umreisst: Die Zeitgenossen haben genau bemerkt und beschrieben, wie da Musik durch Harmonik, Instrumentalfarben und gedankliches Ausgreifen eine neue Dimension gewann. Das Libretto hält sich an Ariosts „Orlando furioso“ wie an das dramaturgische Modell des „veritas vincit“: Die schottische Königstochter Ginevra wird vom eifersüchtigen Polinesse der Untreue bezichtigt; Ihr Geliebter Ariodante stürzt sich daraufhin in einen Fluss, kehrt aber rechzeitig zur Aufklärung der Intrige zurück und stellt die Ehre seiner Braut im Zweikampf wieder her. Wie üblich wurde das Stück für jede Neueinstudierung bearbeitet. Marco Beghelli hat nun für Triest aus über zwanzig Manuskripten eine Partitur rekonstruiert, die wiederum eingekürzt wurde. Ironie des Schicksals: Wenige Monate später tauchte das Original in Wien wieder auf.
So bleibt diese Aufnahme ein Zwischenbericht, wenn auch ein überzeugender. Daniela Barcellona in der Kastratenpartie des Ariodante verfügt über jene unforcierte stimmliche Autorität die Mayrs Vokalartistik als Ausdrucksträger plausible macht. Elizabeth Vidal in der Titelpartie wird brillant mit Prestissimo-Läufen, glitzernden Trillern, delikaten melodischen Schlenker und phatasiestrotzenden Richtungswechsel fertig. Kleinere Rollen sind teils schwächer besetzt. Und Tiziano Severini arbeitet am Pult zuwenig heraus, worin Mayrs Avanciertheiten bestehen.
Auch Ingolstadt, Sitz der „Simon-Mayr-Gesellschaft“ erinnert sich gern seines berühmtesten Tonsetzers. Franz Hauk, Kapellmeister am dortigen Münster, hat einige geistliche Werke Mayrs eingespielt, zuletzt das opulente Oratorium „La Passione“ von 1794. Gerade in diesem Bereich ist Mayr sehr viel weiter gegangen, nachdem er Haydns „Schöpfung“ dirigiert hatte. Es bleibt im Frühwerk bei eindringlichen Einzelmomenten der instrumentalen Textausdeutung. Simon Mayr, das spricht für ihn, hat sich langsam entwickelt. So wahrte er sich jene unaufdringliche Originalität, die wir heute bewundernd wiederentdecken.
STEPHAN MÖSCH

Organists’ Review February 2004

Lent, Passiontide & Easter
Like Franz Hauk’s orchestra and chorus, Mayr hailed from Bavaria, but his Passione sound even more Italianate than Salieri’s. The work dates from his early Venetian years. Mayr’s orchestra is limited to horns, oboes, bassoon, keyboard and strings; the bassoon has the special role of underlining the words. The welcome ‘filler’ on the second Mayr CD is a Stabat Mater in C minor, given in a modern edition by Ian Schofield and Ian Caddy. Dating from the period of Mayr’s Passione, the piece is performed here with the soloists combining in the choral sections, including the fugal Amen.
Peter Palmer

American Record Guide September/October

Mayr was Bavarian-born and got his early Jesuit-heavy education in and around lngoi- stadt, where he quickly absorbed the influences of Haydn and Mozart. A prodigy who could play the keyboard works of CPE Bach at the age of ten, he came to the attention of a Swiss aristocrat who became his patron and saw to his further training in Venice and Bergamo, where he spent most of the rest of his life. But as a composer, Mayr thought of himself as mostly self-taught, claiming to have learned far more from his own study of the era’s masters than from any teacher.
La Passione, from 1794, is a fairly early work from his Venetian years-one of his six large-scale oratorios from that period. (His first opera, Saffo Ossia i Riti dapollo Leucadio, was staged the same year at La Fenice to great acclaim.) This is its first commercial recording, though a 1974 broadcast performance of it in London probably still lurks somewhere in the archives of the BBC.
Its text (from an unknown poet) is heavily influenced by Italian theological teachings of the day dealing with the “wounded heart” of the Virgin Mary, and its “mystical union’ with the heart of Christ. Indeed, the entire passion story is told through the eyes and voice of Mary, with Kommentar and dramatic contrast supplied by Mary Magdalene, St john the Apostle, and Joseph of Arimathea-the remaining three solo roles. The chorus is used sparingly, with only four sections of its own. The oratorio is in two parts, described in the program notes as ‘On the way to Calvary’ and ‘At the foot of the cross”.
The music, written earlier than most of his operas, still reflects the overriding influence of his Viennese models, though his own emerging Italianate voice is readily discernible. Even though Komposition of operas and oratorios went hand-in-hand for many of the day’s notable masters, any seasoned listener will quickly conclude that here is essentially an operatic composer at work. His weil-developed sense of drama and tragic pathos is already apparent, as are his deeply felt sacred sentiments. While this work can hardly be described as startlingly original, Mayr’s fluid writing, skill in composing for the human voice, and imaginative orchestration make for a most enjoyable and moving listening experience. I was especially struck by the many love- ly instrumental obbligatos lacing his solo and ensemble passages.
The filler here is apparently Mayr’s only surviving complete setting of the Stabat Mater. Although it bears the composer’s own “No. 5”, scholars believe that it is also an early work, contemporaneous to La Passione. Other Stabat Mater fragments stored at Bergamo’s civic library-where most of his sacred music is found-are certainly later works, written in a more operatic style. In any case, it is a lovely and striking work, for four soloists and small orchestra.
lngolstadt has claimed Mayr as a native son, and since the founding of the Simon Mayr Society there in 1995 has become the leading European centre for the research, publication, and performance of his music. This recording is one of the society’s projects. The Ingolstadt Vocal Ensemble and the Georgian Chamber Orchestra turn in excellent accounts of both works.
The soloists, who perform the lion’s share of the music, are first-rate-both individually and in the work’s many ensemble passages. Franz Hauk-one of Germany’s most versatile musicians-leads heartfelt and cohesive performances from the harpsichord. The orchestra sounds as if they are playing modern instruments, despite mention in the booklet that special period bows were supplied for the string players. Recording quality is clear and spacious, and notes are especially detailed and informative.
Precious little of Mayr’s staggering output has been recorded. Among his many dozens of operas, Opera Rara has given us Medea in Cor- into (SIO 1995), and Ginevra di Scozia (MIJ 2003). Other available operas include bis early Venetian farce, Che Originale (Guild 7167), and La Rosa Bianca e la Rosa Ressa (Fonit Cetra 2007).
Among his sacred works, there are two more oratorlos (Samuele, Sisare), a requiem, a mass, and a scattering of shorter pieces in collections. Most of those are either unavailable or very hard to track down domestically. My exposure to Mayr’s music tells me that here is an unjustly neglected composer.
KOOB

The Organ No 325 September 2003

The German born composer Johann Simon Mayr (1763-1845) studied in Bergamo and Venice where he worked chiefly as a composer of opera until his work was eclipsed by the popularity of the work of Rossini. After 1816 he wrote only church music and his oratorios found great favour with the musical public. He wrote a notable biography of the composer Haydn.
The music of La Passione is typical of the period and is by turns dramatic, tuneful and inventive, with a great deal of harmonic and structural variety. His orchestration is full of colour and originality and, although not as assured as Mozart, there is nevertheless much to enjoy. The emotionally over-wrought text by an unknown poet is perhaps rather overpowering for modern ears, dripping as it does with catholic sentimentality, but it does make for a dramatic musical journey. The orchestra realise the scoring in a vivid and commanding fashion and the young singers of the mixed Vocalensemble Ingolstadt produce an exiting, fresh sound, which unfortunately doesn’t quite match the quality or maturity of the orchestra. The quartet of soloists are let down by a poor tenor who has neither the vocal agility nor musicality to cope with some of the demanding vocal writing so typical of the period. This is a major problem with the recording, but there is so much else to delight in and lots of music to discover. Mayr’s music deserves a wider audience and this work should be a mainstay of the choral society repertoire.
JJ

Fanfare 09.03 02

I cannot begin to count the times I have stepped up to the plate to defend the exploration of forgotten repertoire and neglected composers. Even though some of these shadowy figures have never benefited from even a modest revival (just an occasional tempting CD), that is not the case with Giovanni Simone Mayr (1763-1845). This is the second release of his sacred choral works by Guild; the initial one was his Mass in C Minor (Guild GMCD 7231), and the same label has released his opera Che originali! (Guild GMCD 7167/8).
Bohemian by birth and Italian by choice, Mayr is chiefly remembered today as the teacher of Gaetano Donizetti, even though his efforts to reform Italian opera and Italian church music were responsible for broad-based stylistic changes in both.
La Passione, which predates Mayr’s musical crusade, dates from 1794 and is one of four oratorios conceived in the Venetian Tradition and composed while Mayr was affiliated with the Ospedale di Medicanti, one of Venice’s conservatories associated with the city’s orphans. But La Passione was written not for the ospedale, but for a church or institution at Forlì.
There is no connection or similarity between Mayr’s setting of the Passion and the treatment accorded the scriptures by Johann Sebastian Bach. Mayr’s treatment follows a different artistic path, and is heir to a Tradition that began in Rome during the counter-Reformation. As such, it reflects the Tradition of St. John Eudes and his devotional teachings regarding the Holy Mother’s wounded heart. According to annotator John Stewart Allitt, Eudes considered “the hearts of Jesus and Mary to be one, thus providing a focal point of love’s divine and radiant source for our own human hearts.” Instead of mixing free poetry with a biblical narrative presented by an evangelist as one finds in the Passion settings of Bach, Mayr’s two-part treatment is a series of meditations on the events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. In the Catholic Tradition, the work is centered on the Virgin Mary’s response to the humiliation and suffering endured by her son and the consequential anguish she felt as a mother.
Mayr’s setting of the Stabat Mater – with its text emphasizing sorrow and suffering-is contemporary with La Passione and belongs to a Tradition of Grabmusiken, or musical meditations on religious themes emphasizing penitence. It is the earliest extant example of Good Friday music in Bergamo’s Biblioteca Civiea, where most of Mayr’s sacred compositions are housed. There is some question as to whether this is in actuality Mayr’s fifth setting of the text; if so, four others are lost, but detailed discussion of the musicological questions here would require an inordinate amount of space. As for models, Mayr would have had access to any number of them, including the well-known settings by Pergolesi and Haydn as weil as Boccherini’s.
For the most part, Mayr’s treatment of Jacopone da Todi’s text is straightforward and traditional with the usual dominance of slow movements. The 20 verses of the text are grouped into eight movements and shared by a quartet of soloists and chorus, accompanied by an orchestra of oboes, horns, and strings with organ continuo. But there are moments of individuality and invention, including the finely wrought fugal “Amen,” where the suggestion of pealing church bells anticipates Easter. In spite of the somber nature of the text, major tonalities predominate with the opening and closing sections in C Minor and the tenor’s aria, “Quam tristis,” in G Minor.
There is much to appreciate here both in Mayr’s artful and sentient settings and in the performances submitted by Franz Hauk and his colleagues. Mayr’s music is exquisite and written with a total understanding of the qualities and idiosyncrasies of the human voice. The result is that the arias are stunningly constructed, command the attention of the ear upon first hearing, and beg for a second chance. The twin specters of Mozart and Haydn are never far away, but Mayr is no stylistic mimic. He matches the Viennese masters in beauty, drama, and power and still has plenty of talent in reserve.
Hauk is clearly devoted to Mayr’s cause and his performers are alert and responsive throughout. The soloists are excellent, reaching for and consistently grasping the meaning of the works’ text, the chorus is well blended and demonstrates a fervent spiritual and emotional bond with the music. This technically and musically adept recording is worth your attention, not to mention the effort required to open your wallet.
Michael Carter

FONO FORUM 03 03

Als Lehrer Donizettis ist der Ingolstädter Johann Simon Mayr (1763-1845) heute vielleicht noch ein Begriff. Dass er zu Beginn des 19 Jahrhunderts in Italien einer der Gesuchtesten Opernkomponisten war und seine Werke Jahrzehntelang in den besten Häusern Venedigs, Mailands und Neapels gespielt wurde, durfte weitgehend vergessen sein. Das Musiklexikon verzeichnet ihn immerhin als einen der führenden Vertreter seines Fachs in Italien vor Rossini.
Noch bevor Mayrs Karriere auf der Opernbühne richtig begann, entstanden das italienische Oratorium und das „Stabat mater“ dieser CD. Von protestantischer Überhöhung von Trübsal und Schmerz deine Spur: Gelöst-katholisch , melodien- und sinnenfreudig und deutlich im Geist der Opera seria widmet sich Mayr dem betrachtend angelangten Text des Oratoriums. Auch im „Stabat mater“ schlägt er nur stellenweise etwas trübere Töne. Doch berührt dies freilich nicht das musikalische Gewicht dieser Werke, das Mayr als Komponisten hohen Rangs bestätigt.
Richtung erfreulich wird diese Wiederentdeckung durch die elegante, fein geschliffene Wiedergabe unter der Leitung des Ingolstädter Kirchenmusikers Franz Hauk. Mit dem Georgischen Kammerorchester hat er einem Klangkörper erster Güte zur Hand und mit Maria Jette und Claudia Schneider  zwei virtuose und gestalterisch rundum überzeugende Solistinnen. Das durch seine sehr jugendliches Klangbild gekennzeichnet e gemischt besetzte Vocalensemble Ingolstad gibt ein Chorsätzen nicht immer den nötigen Nachdruck Andreas Priesenhagen
**** Interpretation
**** Klang

MusicWeb Thursday February 20 03

As is consonant with Mayr’s other large-scale choral works he is here animated by a sense of theatrical involvement. In the Mass the sense of seething operatic impress occasionally threatened to break the bounds of liturgical conformity. Here too it is not always easy to reconcile the contemplative with the dramatic, not least in those cases of apparent displacement between what is being sung and the music Mayr chooses to use to invoke it. Thus the very opening Sinfonia, a bright and bubbly piece of operatic dynamism, is in the notes glossed as representing the triumph of Light over Darkness. Well, maybe but its almost lurid optimism, its sense of having being absorbed from another medium is palpable. It sets up a false premise at least, one that the Passion struggles not always successfully to accommodate.
There are of course many things to admire. The simplicity of St John’s Aria Ah Non cercar pietosa with its divisi strings and pert woodwinds is one of many until, at least, one reads the words which are deeply at odds with the elfin innocence of the music. Or the quasi-operatic refinement of Mary Magdalene’s aria Ecco come il giusto muore. Then there are precise yet compelling little moments of colour and refinement, dramatically telling such as the affecting string line that punctuates Mary’s disconsolate recitative Dove sono? Or the way in which Joseph’s recitative that relates details of the crucifixion is supported by baleful trombones and rugged string writing – there is an amplitude of expression in these myriad details that show Mayr’s mind working on consistently pictorial-dramatic lines. Mayr delays Mary’s aria for some time, her expression previously transmitted by recitative alone. When she is given the aria, Nell’ aspro mio tormento it is rather sturdy and operatic, despite the registral leaps that are perhaps meant to suggest her agitated state of mind (Maria Jette is rather taxed by some of the higher notes). Nevertheless there is in the context a spectacularly jolly duet for Mary and Magdalene, Nel veder traffito, to end the first part.
The second part, at the foot of the Cross, replicates the linear curve of Mayr’s schema. There is a splendidly incisive and galvanising orchestral introduction to the recitative Che vedo with much opportunity to point the differing responses of those gathered from the visceral, visual despair of Magdalene to Mary’s reflective and internalised anguish. In Joseph’s remarkably effective recitative Quel terribil vendetta for example his vocal line is accompanied by a sinuously winding oboe and tremolando strings, reflecting and amplifying his thoughts. The quartet of singers cope relatively well with the various demands placed on them if not always with either technical or tonal resources varied enough to enrich the music still further.
The companion work is the Stabat Mater, which was probably composed in Venice or in Bergamo by about 1802. This is an essentially traditional setting but as ever with Mayr he is always adept at insinuating little stylistic quirks into the line. There is a buoyant violin obbligato in the Eja Mater with its own quite extensive cadenza and the Fac me tecum which opens beautifully and sustains impetus. The Virgo virginum is a verdant and entwining duet full of expressive plangency and the Christe, cum sit hinc commanding and assured. In fact the whole work is suffused with a clarity and a concision that serves only to increase its compact success.
Notes are up to the usual Mayr-Guild standard (i.e. very good) but something has gone awry with the tracking and booklet text, which doesn’t marry up. One minute you expect a recitative from Joseph and the next you get an aria from Magdalene. A small liability but a liability nonetheless. I can’t pretend that La Passione is a blazing masterpiece – it struck me as inferior to the Mass in C – but in its intriguing, stylistically various way, it affords many moments of genuine pleasure.
Jonathan Woolf

Classics Today Monday February 03 03

Giovanni (Johannes) Mayr is best known as Donizetti’s teacher, but he was a successful composer in his own right, penning more than 60 operas and many religious works. He was born in Germany but he made his career in Italy, and this Passion was composed early in his career in Venice. It has little to do with, say, Bach’s Passions, which are taken from Scripture. Here we get dramatic outpourings voiced by a chorus, St. Mary (soprano), St. John (tenor), Mary Magdalene (contralto), and Joseph of Arimathea (bass), involving Mary’s reactions to Jesus’ suffering. Metastasio, mostly known for his opera serie librettos, is responsible for some of the text.
The work actually seems closer to Haydn’s Creation than anything else, with dramatic recitative followed by aria (and one duet), but with choruses only at the start of each of the two parts and at the work’s close. It is almost impossible to discern any great spirituality in the oratorio, and while Franz Hauk’s too-relaxed leadership and the singers’ lack of intensity may be partially to blame, it strikes me that the piece itself is rather flaccid.
The last part of the duet that ends part one, for Mary and Mary Magdalene, uses the text “Who can understand the agony and the bitterness of my martyrdom? Oh God! I already feel my soul filled with terror!” Incredibly, this is set to a jaunty allegro! What could Mayr have been thinking? Later on, we get an aria sung by Mary in which she bemoans the fact that Jesus has referred to her as “Woman” and she is therefore even deprived of her motherhood. It’s a nice Mozart-flavored aria, classical and clean, but with no emotional punch at all, either in the music or delivery. And when, near the end, Joseph, in an accompanied recitative, rails against “faithless Jerusalem” and foretells famine and horror (“children will be given to their mother as food”), the music isn’t even particularly agitated.
The Stabat Mater is somewhat better. It’s in the tradition of Pergolesi’s, with individual arias, here interestingly orchestrated; but it also leaves the listener cold. The singers are good in a provincial way, and the same might be said about the orchestra. In short, these are capable performances of these two works, and I’m partially convinced that a conductor and singers with energy and involvement might have helped them come to life. But as this set stands, it seems to contain average readings of average works.
Robert Levine

MusicWeb – Thursday December 05 02

If Johann Simon Mayr (or Giovanni Simone Mayr, as he became known in Italy) is known at all today, it is as the teacher of Donizetti. One or two of his operas, such as ‘Medea in Corinto’ have become a little better known thanks to their CD recordings. It might come as a surprise to find that Mayr wrote a considerable quantity of liturgical music. He was a devout Catholic and founded a music school which was closely linked to the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. He composed sacred music for all occasions and was still composing it in the year of his death.
1794, the year of composition of ‘La Passione’, also saw the first performance of Mayr’s opera ‘Saffo’. This was a great success, allowing the composer to develop his voice in Italian opera. ‘La Passione’ is one of a group of early oratorios, written whilst Mayr was associated with the Ospedali dei Mendicanti, one of the four music conservatories in Venice concerned with orphans. Though he wrote oratorios for the Ospedali, ‘La Passione’ was written for another church, so Mayr was not limited to girls voices and could introduce greater dramatic scope. The text, by an unknown author, draws on Metastasio’s ‘Passione’ and is typical of the oratorios produced by the counter-reformation, consisting of a series of meditations on the sacred events, centred on the Virgin’s response to her Son’s sufferings and her consequent agony as a mother.
‘La Passione’ is in two parts. Part 1, on the way to Calvary, opens with a sinfonia followed by the opening chorus. From then on Mayr dramatises the text via a sequence of recitatives (mainly accompanied) and arias. Part 2, at the foot of the Cross, follows a similar pattern and finishes with a final chorus. The key word here is dramatises. This is a dramatic, almost operatic work. Not for Mayr the quiet contemplation of the more Germanic oratorios. The opening sinfonia is surprisingly cheerful and would not come amiss as the overture to an opera buffo; evidently this is meant to suggest Victory over Death. The following chorus is also very operatic, intermingling chorus with solo interjections. Mayr’s style hovers between the world familiar to Mozart and Haydn and the style that was to become the early 19th Century Italian opera.
The soprano Maria Jette sings the role of Mary the Mother of Christ, around whom the action centres. Contralto Claudia Schneider sings Mary Magdalene, tenor Hartmut Schröder sings St. John and bass-baritone Robert Merwald sings Joseph of Arimathea. Neither Christ nor Evangelist appear at all, though Christ’s words from the cross are reported in the recitative. The narrative moves along with a series of accompanied recitatives for each of the characters. These contain some of the most dramatic moments in the work and I felt that the performers did not nearly make enough of them. St. John’s recitative at the end of part one ‘Why does not my heart break at the sight of such barbaric cruelty? Who has witnessed such a frightful spectacle?’ is finely played and sung but lacks the dramatic impetus needed by the words. This is not meditatively deep music, Mayr gives the text impetus by dramatising it and using word painting. Too frequently the performers seem to give it too little light and shade, content to skim over the surface of this attractive work.
And attractive it is too. Mayr had significant melodic gifts and all the soloists perform their arias attractively and finely. Maria Jette sings affectingly, displaying a fine upper register but she tends to be rhythmically four-square, I could have wished for greater flexibility from her. Claudia Schneider has an attractive deep toned voice, not without a hint of unsteadiness and at times she seemed uncomfortable with the fioriture. Hartmut Schröder’s tenor is an attractive instrument but his bright tone tends to be unvarying and can be a little wearying. In Part 2, the drama intensifies and the soloists respond to this, except for Hartmut Schröder who seems to value beauty of line more than the drama implicit in the words.
The orchestra, Georgisches Kammerorchester Ingolstadt, under Franz Hauk play the music capably if without much subtlety and Hauk’s speeds tend to be on the safe side. He seems to mistake slowness for emotion, Maria’s cavatina ‘Fra l’orror de’mali’ seems in danger of grinding to a halt. I would love to hear this music in a more responsive performance played on original instruments. Luckily there is not too much secco recitative as the harpsichord used on the recording has a distinctly clangy tone.
The second work is a Stabat Mater. An apt companion as the texts of the two works are both quite similar in tone. The Stabat Mater is labelled no. 5 but there is no trace of any of the 4 preceding works (if they existed at all). It is a charming work and has the advantage that there are no passages of recitative, simply a sequence of arias and ensembles. Music in an over-wrought style to match the words is not for Mayr, he writes with almost classical poise. Though the work opens and closes with substantial four-part ensembles, these are performed here by the soloists alone with no choral contribution, evidently Mayr performed the work in this form as well as performing it with a chorus. Having the chorus parts sung by soloists has the advantage of making the piece sound more homogeneous but the final chorus does rather cry out for a real choral sound. In the chorus numbers the soloists blend beautifully, creating a really effective ensemble.
Guild are to be congratulated on issuing these recordings of Mayr’s sacred music. The performances by the Ingolstadt forces are quite creditable and make a good introduction to Mayr’s music of this period. Perhaps one of our period instrument groups will now take up the challenge and give us some more.
Robert Hugill