Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra, Mary Terey-Smith
Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis Choir
Recorded a the Don Bosco Concert Room, Szombathely, Hungary from 8th to 10th October, 2006.
It has been a difficult task for musicologists to get a grip on Johann Friedrich Fasch. Although based in Zerbst for most of his long life - he was born three years after Handel and died one year before - Fasch's voluminous work is scattered throughout the archives of Europe and dedicated diligence has been required to make sense of its scope. To most listeners who are aware of Fasch at all, he is merely the composer whose trumpet concerto filled out the Erato disc featuring Jean-Francois Paillard's popular recording of Pachelbel's Canon in D. Fasch is a far more interesting composer than just that would imply. A one-time student of Johann Kuhnau also strongly influenced by Georg Philipp Telemann, Fasch often thought outside the Baroque box and had a uniquely individual style that emphasized variety. In reference to his sacred vocal music, a genre in which Fasch produced hundreds of works, one usually reads "most of it is lost." One that is not is his Brockes-Passion, Passio Jesu Christi FWV F:1, wjoc is the featured work on Naxos' Fasch: Passio Jesu Christi. This Hungarian recording features a fine rank of vocal soloists, including the redoubtable Maria Zadori, the Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis, and Capella Savaria under the direction of Mary Terey-Smith.
The Overture (Suite) in D minor that opens the disc is one of 87 that survive by Fasch, and one aspect of it that is immediately apparent is how little it sounds like Telemann - it is cool, restrained, easygoing, and decidedly pre-classical in its approach. What is more surprising is that it is thought to date from the late 1720s and may have been commissioned for the court in Dresden - a little ahead of the advent of classical style even in Italy. Fasch's penchant for being ahead of the curve is likewise demonstrated by his setting of the passion text by Barthold Heinrich Brockes, which dates from 1717-18; it had only been set the first time by Reinhard Keiser in 1712. The better-known settings of this text - by Handel, Telemann, and its partial use by Johann Sebastian Bach in his St. John Passion - all came later. It survives in two manuscripts, one in Chicago and the other in Leipzig, and both were probably copied after Fasch had died; Mary Terey-Smith elected to edit the Leipzig version for this performance.
Like Fasch's Overture, this Passion is unadorned, never fussy, relatively free of contrapuntal business, and quite straightforward in its presentation; the chorales are especially lovely. The soloists are fine, particularly Maria Zadori, whose voice lightens up the restrained atmosphere of the performance every time it is heard. One qualm though; Terey-Smith's direction is so cautious that the music only seldom sparkles, and several times the passion gets dangerously close to being boring, though it never quite arrives there. With 2008 being the Semiquincentennial of Fasch's death, expect more to come, although in sum, Naxos' Fasch: Passio Jesu Christi is a generally pleasing example of Fasch's vocal music.
All Music Guide
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Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758)
Ouverture in D minor - Passio Jesu Christi
Son of a pastor, Johann Friedrich Fasch had his earliest musical training as a choirboy in Suhl. Following his father's death, at the age of twelve he was sent to Leipzig to train under Kuhnau in the Thomaskirche, where he showed early promise as a composer, freely admitting in his autobiography the influence of Telemann. In 1708, while starting his studies at the University of Leipzig, Fasch founded a collegium musicum that gave regular concerts, providing a platform for his own compositions. The group was so successful that it is Fasch's, and not Telemann's society, that is now considered the ancestor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra.
In 1712 Fasch undertook an extended study tour, visiting several musically active courts in North and Central Germany, and eventually spending over three months with the Kapellmeister Graupner at Darmstadt. His first musical position was as organist in Greiz, where he acted also as director of church music performance. In 1721 he accepted the post of Kapellmeister in the court of Count Wenzel Morzin in Prague, a position he gave up reluctantly after only six months, when he was asked to take over in a similar capacity at Zerbst. Barely had he settled there when he was approached by the Leipzig authorities to apply for the vacancy left by the death of Kuhnau. Though he was short-listed for one of the most prestigious cantorships in Germany, he declined the offer in view of the generous position he now enjoyed in Zerbst and of the fact that he could not teach Latin.
Fasch arrived in Zerbst at a time of great musical growth in musical life at the court. Under his direction he was able to enlarge the Kapelle and oversee the rich provision of music in the court chapel where there were annual cycles of cantatas on Saturdays and Sundays, celebratory music for court events as well as much music for the entertainment in the palace. A prolific composer, widely respected in Germany, he composed works for the Lutheran church service and secular instrumental works, including ouvertures (suites), symphonies, partitas and a large amount of varied chamber music. In 1727 he embarked on a long journey to Dresden where, inspired by the high standard of music there, he composed several instrumental works,' and established a friendly relationship with a number of composers in the court, Pisendel and Heinichen among them. Upon returning, he continued his work at Zerbst, where he stayed until the end of his life but maintained contact with several major composers through an exchange of sacred and secular music, a custom well established at the time in Germany.
- Nigel Springthorpe
Ouverture (Suite) in D minor
The ouverture-suites represent a major element among the instrumental works of Fasch. It is generally agreed by scholars that he composed suites throughout his life, but dating them is difficult. The title of the form indicates a suite with an opening ouverture, usually followed by five movements containing airs and dance pieces. Based on stylistic and formal elements, the Ouverture in D minor comes from the composer's mature period and could have been commissioned by the court in Dresden. The six-movement work, scored for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo, opens with a traditional three-section French ouverture, followed by a series of dance movements and arias. Lyrical melodic writing with simple chordal accompaniment dominates the two arias, the second and fifth movements, while the two dances, the third and fourth movements, have an almost folk-like simplicity. In the fifth movement Fasch uses orchestral subdivisions between the unison string group and the woodwind. Aria: Un poco Allegro, the sixth movement, a Rondo finale, presents a strongly rhythmic theme for the whole orchestra that is juxtaposed with virtuosic solo violin passages supported
with light string accompaniment; the violin solo sections are periodically interrupted by solo woodwind themes. The Italian-style melodic writing and transparent orchestration creates an overall texture akin to the early pre-classical idiom.
- Mary Terey-Smith
Passio Jesu Christi
(Mich von Stricke meiner Sunden)
It has long been thought that the Passion oratorio Passio Jesu Christi was composed in 1723, largely based upon a report in the composer's autobiography that he wrote a "strong" Passion in his first year as Kapellmeister in Zerbst. Recent research, however, points to an earlier composition date, most likely in the period 1717-1719, when Fasch was in charge of the music at a local church in Greiz. There is a clear distinction between oratorio Passions, where the text of one of the Gospels is set to music and'interspersed with chorales and arias that act as commentaries on the events of the story, and Passion oratorios where the entire text has been written by a poet, often paraphrasing the Gospel text, where no one Gospel gives a full account of the story or of Christ's last words. While the former became a staple diet of Passiontide services in the Lutheran Church, the latter met with great resistance from church authorities owing to the overt theatricality and sentimentality of the text. Although this work may be described as a St John Passion, in fact Mich von Stricke meiner Sunden falls into the latter genre, since none of St John's text is used verbatim in the libretto. The text is a substantially shortened version of the famous libretto "Der fur die Sunde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus" ("Jesus Tortured and Dying for the Sins of the World") by Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) with some alterations and additions written probably by the composer himself. Brockes, a well respected German poet, heard a performance based on St John's Gospel in 1704 that inspired him to create his own version. Set to music by Keiser, the work was presented in 1712 at the poet's house and received enthusiastically. Several major composers followed in setting the text to music, with Handel, Telemann and Mattheson among the best known. Some parts of the libretto were also used by J. S. Bach in his St John Passion.
Fasch's Mich von Stricke comes down to us in two differing manuscript copies, one in the Leipzig Stadtische Bibliothek, the other at the University of Chicago Library. It would appear that the more complete and more richly orchestrated Leipzig score is the later version. The provenance of the extant scores suggests that these manuscripts were prepared by, or for, contemporary musicians, possibly after the death of the composer. Thus it seems probable that neither source represents the definite version created by Fasch.
Beyond considerably shortening Brockes' poem, Fasch also made changes to several recitatives and added five chorales and two arias to the text that are missing in Brockes' libretto. An appendix to the Leipzig score indicates that Part I should end with a chorale, Herr, lass dein bitter Leiden, and another chorale, Ein Lammlein geht, should open the second part. These changes give the work a more conventional and cohesive structure in accordance with the eighteenth-century German liturgical Passion tradition, where each part is framed by chorales.
The performing edition for the present recording is based upon the Leipzig manuscript to which some minor modifications have been made. Following contemporary practice, a bassoon has been added in movements where there are two oboes; a flute replaces the obligato oboe in Brich, mein Herz in order to balance with the pizzicato strings; the chorale Herr, lass dein bitter Leiden is accompanied only by the organ, and the second verse of the final chorale, Ich danke dir von Herzen is sung by a solo quartet with organ accompaniment to vary the timbre.
- Nigel Springthorpe
The soprano Maria Zadori is a soloist of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Agency. She is also a founding member of the Ars Renata Vocal Ensemble, a group specialising in Renaissance and early Baroque music. She appears frequently in the major European early music festivals of Regensburg, Halle, Innsbruck, Gottingen and Utrecht. She has worked regularly with the Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra since its founding, and recorded a number of discs with them, including J.C. Bach's Vauxhall Songs, J.S. Bach's Wedding Cantatas, motets by Vivaldi, Psalms by Marcello and other sacred music by Mozart and Pergolesi. Maria Zadori was awarded the Liszt prize in 1989. She performs regularly throughout Hungary, Austria, Poland and Germany where the purity of her voice and innate musicality have gained her the highest praise.
The tenor Zoltan Megyesi, born in 1975 in Szeged (Hungary), is a specialist in Baroque and Classical oratorio and opera. He is a regular collaborator in oratorio performances throughout Europe. As a soloist in Handel's St John Passion he had the opportunity to sing in the presence of the King of Spain, His Majesty Juan Carlos. His appearances in Mozart operas, as Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, have been received enthusiastically by audiences and critics alike.
Peter Cser was born in Budapest in 1963, where he studied at the Liszt Academy of Music, receiving his diploma in Lieder, oratorio and opera categories. Graduate studies took him to the Graz Musikhochschule, where, following his studies, he was engaged as the opera's regular guest soloist (1993-97). Besides regular appearances in Hungary in opera and oratorio, he has sung also in many European countries, including Germany, Finland, Russia, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and in the former Czechoslovakia, as well as in Japan and the United States. He can be heard on several recordings published by EMI, ORF, Naxos and others. Major roles created by Peter Cser include Noah (Britten), Sarastro, Figaro and Don Giovanni (Mozart) and Colline (Puccini). He also performs regularly with the Tomkins Choir (Budapest), the Cantus Corvinus and the Nova Ensemble in Vienna.
Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra
In 2006 the Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra celebrated its 25th anniversary and was praised and feted on Hungarian Radio and Television. Situated in the western Hungarian city Szombathely, it takes its name from the town's ancient Roman name, Savaria. The core ensemble is the famed string section that plays on original instruments from the eighteenth-century. On five occasions the orchestra was awarded Record of the Year status in Hungary. Concert tours outside Hungary have taken them to Italy, Germany, Israel, South America, the United States and Canada; they have also participated in several major festivals in Europe, at Innsbruck, Bruges, Regensburg, Gottingen, Halle and Kothen. In 1991 the orchestra was awarded the Liszt prize in recognition of its outstanding achievements and in 2006 was voted the "Prima, primissima" title, an award in arts given by the National Commerce and Trade Association to professional groups. Zsolt Kallo, the artistic director of the ensemble is also the Capella's leader and concert master. A graduate of the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, he continued his studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg under Sandor Vegh. He is an acclaimed soloist, has appeared in many countries and has a broad repertory that extends from the Baroque to the contemporary.
Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis
Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis, the concert choir of the Budapest Singing School, was founded in 1984. Two hundred students now attend the school and regularly participate in liturgical services of various major churches in the capital. The two artistic leaders, Dr Tamas Bubno and Dr Janos Mezei work daily with the students as part of the regular school curriculum. A number of other music educators make up the teaching faculty; their work covers vocal technique, theory and counterpoint, Gregorian chant, Hungarian church music from the eighteenth-century to contemporary works, and medieval and renaissance Hungarian liturgical literature. The two artistic leaders prepare the students for performances in national and international tours and competitions. The Schola won first prize at the Ad Gloriam Dei competition in Poland and at the Free Choirs of Cathedral Schools in Amiens, France. Hungaroton has already recorded five CDs with the Schola.
Mary Terey-Smith is a Hungarian-born conductor and musicologist. She studied conducting at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest with Janos Ferencsik, composition with Janos Viski and Zoltan Kodaly, and music history with Bence Szabolcsi. Upon graduation at the age of eighteen, she made her conducting debut with the Tatabanya Symphony Orchestra and became their resident conductor (1952-56). She also held a part-time position as vocal coach, and later became assistant conductor with the Hungarian State Opera. Emigrating to Canada in 1957, Terey-Smith worked in Montreal and in Toronto as a vocal coach and conductor while at the same time undertaking graduate studies. She was awarded a Ph.D. in musicology in 1971 by the Eastman School of Music. Terey-Smith taught from 1967 until 2001 at Western Washington University, where she established a thriving Collegium Musicum programme. This group toured Europe six times between 1990 and 2000, winning enthusiastic reviews for both their public and broadcast performances. Her association with the Capella Savaria began in 1995 with a series of recordings. Concert appearances in Hungary, the United States and Germany followed and in 1999 she was asked by the Capella to assist them in finding and editing new materials for use in concerts and recordings. In addition to her concert appearances, she remains active as a musicologist, specialising in the operatic repertories of eighteenth-century France, Italy, Germany and Portugal, and exploring Baroque orchestral practices for opera accompaniment. Her publications have appeared in several Canadian and European journals; recent writings include a number of essays for the 2001 edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and several book reviews for Music and Letters.