divendres, 23 de setembre de 2022

FILS, Anton (1733-1760) - Sinfonia ex E moli (c.1757)

Johann Baptist Homann (1664-1724) - Eichstätt und Umgebung in Vogelschau (c.1720)

Anton Fils (1733-1760) - Sinfonia ex E moli (c.1757)
Performers: Vienna Radio Orchestra; Gabor Otvos (conductor)


German composer and cellist. Long thought to be of Bohemian origin, despite Marpurg's designation of him in 1756 as ‘from Bavaria’, he was found in the 1960s to have been born in Eichstätt, where his father, Johann Georg Fils, was a cellist at the prince-bishop's court from 1732 until his death in 1749. At both Eichstätt and later at Mannheim the surname is consistently spelt ‘Fils’, though ‘Filtz’ predominates in prints of his music. His principal teacher was his father. He attended the local Gymnasium in Eichstätt and in November 1753 appeared on the rolls of the University of Ingolstadt as a student of law and theology. On 15 May 1754 Fils was appointed cellist to the electoral court at Mannheim at a salary of 300 gulden, retroactive to 1 February of that year. There he may have studied composition with Johann Stamitz; he is described as a ‘dissepolo’ of the older composer on the title page of his trio sonatas op.3 (1760). In February 1757 Fils married Elisabeth Range. The couple had at least one child, a daughter born in October 1757, and they bought a house in October 1759, by which time Fils's salary had risen to 450 gulden. His early death in 1760 at the age of 26 led not only to comparisons with Pergolesi but also to conflicting accounts of his death, the strangest being C.F.D. Schubart's statement that he died ‘as a result of his bizarre notion of eating spiders’. Fils was extraordinarily prolific, leaving substantial bodies of orchestral, chamber, and sacred music. He is best known for his symphonies, which number at least 34. His first publication, the symphonies a 4 op.1, appeared in Paris in late 1759 or early 1760, and was soon followed by the symphonies opp.2 and 5 and an extended series published individually and in anthologies. Fils also composed some 30 concertos, primarily for cello and flute, of which only about half have survived. His chamber music, most of it published in Paris, spans a variety of genres, often featuring obbligato cello. 

dimecres, 21 de setembre de 2022

NUNES GARCIA, José Maurício (1767-1830) - Te Deum (1799)

Alfred Martinet (1821-1875) - Rio de Janeiro Catette e entrada da Barra (c.1852)

José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767-1830) - Te Deum (1799)
Performers: Americantiga; Ricardo Bernardes (conductor)


Brazilian composer. He was the most important composer of his time in Brazil, where he is generally referred to as José Maurício. He was the son of a modest lieutenant, Apolinário Nunes Garcia, and a black woman, Victoria Maria da Cruz. There is no evidence that he studied music at the Fazenda Santa Cruz, established by the Jesuits outside Rio de Janeiro, as has often been reported. It seems that he had some training in solfège under a local teacher, Salvador José, and he did receive formal instruction in philosophy, languages, rhetoric and theology. In 1784 he participated in the foundation of the Brotherhood of St Cecilia, one of the most important professional musical organizations of the time, and he officially entered the Brotherhood São Pedro dos Clérigos in 1791. He was ordained priest on 3 March 1792: the fact that he was a mulatto does not seem to have interfered in the process of his ordination. Many of his contemporaries praised his intellectual, artistic and priestly qualities. On 2 July 1798 Garcia was appointed mestre de capela of Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, the most significant musical position in the city. The appointment required him to act as organist, conductor, composer and music teacher; and he also had the responsibility of appointing musicians. Before that date he had begun a music course open to the public free of charge. He maintained this activity for 28 years, teaching some of the best-known musicians of the time, including Francisco Manuel da Silva. By the arrival of Prince (later King) Dom João VI and the Portuguese court in 1808, Garcia’s fame was well established in the colony; he had by then composed several works, including graduals, hymns, antiphons and masses. 

Following the tradition of the Bragança royal house, Dom João was a patron of music; and Garcia’s talents were immediately recognized. In 1808 he was appointed mestre de capela of the royal chapel, for which he wrote 39 works during 1809 alone. The prince’s appreciation was marked by the bestowal of the Order of Christ. Soon the composer became fashionable and famous for his skills in improvisation at the keyboard in noble salons. The Austrian composer Sigismund Neukomm (1778-1858), a former pupil of Haydn who lived in Rio from 1816 to 1821, referred to Garcia as ‘the first improviser in the world’. But after the arrival in 1811 of Marcos Portugal, the most famous Portuguese composer of his time, Garcia’s position and production tended to decline. His humility and benevolence kept him from counteracting Portugal’s intrigues. His activities as composer and conductor concentrated henceforth on the city’s brotherhoods, although his position at the royal chapel was nominally maintained. In about 1816 his health began to decline, considerably reducing his working capacity. Yet on 19 December 1819 he conducted the première in Brazil of Mozart’s Requiem, an event reported by Neukomm in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. The return of Dom João and part of the court to Portugal in 1821 had the effect of reducing the importance of the city’s musical life. Although Emperor Pedro I was himself a musician, the years following independence (1822) were not favourable for artistic development. Financial difficulties and precarious health undermined Garcia’s last nine years, and he died in extreme poverty. 

dilluns, 19 de setembre de 2022

DE CROES, Henri-Jacques (1705-1786) - Concerto 6.o per Flauto Traverso

Jean-Baptiste Joseph Pater (1695-1736) - Fête Champêtre with a Flute Player

Henri-Jacques de Croes (1705-1786) - Concerto 6.o per Flauto Traverso (1737)
Performers: André Isselee (flute); Les Solistes De Liège; Géry Lemaire (conductor)


Flemish composer, conductor and violinist. At the age of 18 (7 November 1723) he was named first violin at the St Jacobskerk, Antwerp. In September 1729 he went to Brussels, where he entered the service of Prince Anselme-François of Thurn and Taxis. The prince held the monopoly of postal services in the Empire and had several residences, the most important being at Brussels and Frankfurt and later at Regensburg; de Croes is mentioned in the prince’s archives in Germany (in 1734, 1737-39 and 1742). By 1744 he was back in Brussels as a first violin in the chapel of Charles of Lorraine, whose sister-in-law, the Empress Maria Theresa, had made him governor of the Austrian Netherlands. In 1746 he became maître de chapelle at the court and directed the chamber music, for at that time the same musicians played in both chapel and court. There were six singers (two counter-tenors, two tenors and two basses) and 13 instrumentalists (six violinists, one violist, one cellist, one double bass player, two organists and two oboists), all of whom were French. For important festivals, the orchestra was augmented by the musicians of the most important collegiate church in Brussels, Ste Gudule (now the cathedral). De Croes remained master of music at the Brussels court until his death. Given de Croes’s circumstances, it is not surprising that he composed both church music and chamber music (in particular sonatas and concertos). He was in no way an innovator: his style may be described as an interweaving of the French and Italian traditions, as might be expected in the South Netherlands at a time when musical forms were in a stage of transition between the Baroque style and the galant. In his trio sonatas, for example, he wrote in the Corelli tradition with a slow introduction and fugal allegro followed by a number of movements alternately slow and fast.

In other sonatas he conformed to a more modern Italian pattern: fast–slow–fast, with a lighter texture and more ornate melodic lines. The divertissements belong to the tradition of the French suite, with an overture in dotted rhythm followed by dances. As in the Italianate sonatas, the texture is light and the decoration combines French ornaments with new fashions like the ‘Mannheimer Vorhalt’ and the Lombard rhythms common in contemporary German music. The solo concertos and the concerti grossi are in the contemporary three-movement Italian style but with the lighter texture that was then employed in France after the manner of J.-M. Leclair; the trademarks of the Mannheim school are also present, giving the concertos a pre-Classical accent. De Croes was influenced by Corelli, Vivaldi, Tartini and even Handel, and his opening themes frequently bear close resemblance to their works. De Croes’s extant church music includes several motets and fragments of masses, written for four voices and four instruments, with the usual tessituras; this was doubtless the force of the royal chapel and Ste Gudule. Despite the requirements of church music (particularly the masses), the idiom seems more instrumental than vocal. The instruments frequently double the voice parts or realize the figured bass in a fairly straightforward manner. The motets are unusual in that they have a structure similar to that of the cantata, with alternating choruses and solo sections. In these works too, there is evidence of French influence (particularly of a tradition founded by Henry Dumont at the court of Louis XIV), combined with the traditions of the Italian cantata. De Croes’s son, Henri-Joseph de Croes (1758-1842), was from 1775 a violinist in the service of the Prince of Thurn and Taxis at Regensburg, and maître de chapelle from 1776 to 1783. He is known to have composed only one work, a set of violin duos which his father presented to Charles of Lorraine in the (unfulfilled) hope that his son might succeed him as maître de chapelle at the Brussels court. 

diumenge, 18 de setembre de 2022

HOLZBAUER, Ignaz (1711-1783) - Missa Brevissima F-Dur

Johann Ludwig Ernst Morgenstern (1738-1819) - Blick in das Innere einer Barockkirche mit schwarzen Marmorsäulen und Staffagefiguren in der Tracht des 17. Jahrhunderts, 1790

Ignaz Holzbauer (1711-1783) - Missa Brevissima F-Dur
Performers: Collegium Vocale et instrumentale Nova Ars Cаntаndi; Giovаnni Acciаi (conductor)


Austrian composer. He contributed significantly to 18th-century musical life in Mannheim, where he was Kapellmeister at the famous electoral court for 25 years (1753-78), and in Vienna. An autobiographical sketch, written apparently in 1782 and first published in 1790, provides basic information about Holzbauer’s life but few reliable dates. He was attracted to music at an early age, but this inclination received no support from his father, a Viennese leather merchant, who wanted him to study law. Pursuing musical training nevertheless, he applied to the young members of the choir at the Stephansdom for instruction in singing, piano, violin and cello. In return, he provided them with his new compositions. He studied Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum on his own initiative and eventually arranged a meeting with Fux, who, after examining a sample exercise, declared him an innate genius and recommended a journey to Italy as a means of refining his musical knowledge. Following a short term of employment with Count Thurn-Valsassina of Laibach (Ljubljana), and a brief excursion to Venice, he was appointed Kapellmeister to Count Rottal of Holešov in Moravia. There his opera Lucio Papirio dittatore was staged in 1737; that same year he married the singer Rosalie Andreides. According to the autobiography, the couple left Holešov for Vienna a year later. Subsequently, they journeyed to Italy, where they remained for three years, travelling to Milan, Venice and other cities. In 1744 Holzbauer collaborated with Franz Hilverding in creating ballets for a Viennese performance of Hasse’s Ipermestra, and from 1746 to 1750 he was engaged in Vienna to compose ballet music for the Burgtheater; in 1746 his name was also associated with the Viennese popular theatre. In 1751 Holzbauer succeeded Brescianello as Oberkapellmeister at Stuttgart, where he and his wife became ensnared in court intrigue. Fortunately, following the successful 1753 performance of his opera Il figlio delle selve at Schwetzingen (Elector Carl Theodor’s summer residence), he was appointed ‘Kapellmeister für das Theater’ at Mannheim, where his own works dominated the stage until 1760. Several excursions – to Rome (1756), Turin for the performance of his Nitteti (1758), Paris (1758) and Milan for the production of his Alessandro nell’Indie (1759) – helped to expand his artistic horizons but failed to secure him a lasting international reputation. Early in the next decade Holzbauer evidently cultivated musical ties with Vienna: his name appeared in connection with Burgtheater orchestral concerts (1761–3), and his oratorio La Betulia liberata received several performances. In Mannheim, where he assumed duties as director of the Hofkapelle following Carlo Grua’s death in 1773, his activities had shifted from theatre to sacred music, but he did not turn his back on opera permanently: his greatest success came early in 1777 with the favourable reception of his German opera Günther von Schwarzburg. Declining to follow the electoral court to Munich, he remained at Mannheim, where his one-act opera La morte di Didone was produced in 1779. Though suffering acute hearing loss and other ailments, he managed to complete another opera, Tancredi, for the court theatre in Munich shortly before his death. 

divendres, 16 de setembre de 2022

MERCADANTE, Saverio (1795-1870) - Concerto per il Clarinetto, Op.101

Andrea Cefaly (1827-1907) - Portrait of Saverio Mercadante

Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870) - Concerto (in si bemolle maggiore) per il Clarinetto, Op.101
Performers: Fabrizio Meloni (clarinet); Orchestra di Verona; Alberto Martini (conductor)


Italian composer, conductor and teacher. He was an illegitimate child whose parents did not marry because of their different social rank; his father belonged to the local nobility, and his mother was a maidservant in his household. Instead, Saverio was adopted by his father as a foundling. The looting of Altamura in 1799 in retaliation for its republicanism dissipated the family finances, and Mercadante’s youth was spent in poverty, with no educational prospects. The family’s circumstances did not improve until after the French occupation in 1806, when his father took an administrative post in Naples. He had shown early musical promise, learning the guitar and clarinet from his half-brother, and the move to Naples made a professional training at the conservatory possible. A forged birth certificate was obtained, enabling him to take up a state bursary, and he entered the Conservatorio di S Sebastiano in 1808. While a student there, he wrote a number of instrumental pieces, including music for three ballets. His first opera premiered on Jan. 4, 1819, and, less than three years (and precisely five operas) later, his Elisa e Claudio successfully opened at La Scala in Milan. He composed another popular opera, Caritea, regina di Spagna (“Caritea, Queen of Spain”; better known as Donna Caritea), in 1826. He was involved with Italian opera in Spain and Portugal from about 1827 to 1830. During rehearsals for Gabriella Mercadante met his future wife Sofia Gambaro (1812-1898), whom he married on 9 July 1832. From 1833 to 1840 was maestro di cappella at Novara Cathedral.

In 1835 he came in contact with the music of Giacomo Meyerbeer, and his next opera, Il giuramento (“The Oath”; performed in 1837 and considered to be his best opera), reflects the lessons he learned from that composer. Early in 1838 he applied to suceed Zingarelli as director of the Naples Conservatory a post he held until his death. Thereafter he continued to attempt a more harmonious blend of drama and music and led the way toward simplified vocal lines, originality, and thoughtful, serious composition. In addition to operas, he wrote sacred music (including a number of masses), cantatas and hymns, orchestral pieces, and a variety of chamber music. In 1862 Mercadante suffered a stroke that left him completely blind. In 1869 he produced his Mass in G Minor, but his intention of returning to opera with a setting of Cammarano’s posthumous libretto Caterina di Brono was never completed. He had reached the finale of the first act when he suffered another stroke, and this time did not recover; he died after a short illness. Mercadante’s extraordinary fame during his lifetime was followed by comprehensive oblivion after his death. His works never became part of the established operatic repertory in the second half of the 19th century, and in the 20th century he was at best seen as a precursor of Verdi. This narrowly aesthetic judgment of his operas ignores the commercial context in which Mercadante worked, which was more akin to the world of modern show business. While some revivals of his works in recent years have led to a general revision of this assessment, however, there has been no new musicological interpretation of his work.