Charles Burney described Johann Adolf Hasse, his contemporary, as ‘the most natural, elegant and judicious composer of vocal music, as well as the most voluminous now alive…’ His output includes 63 operas, but only two are currently recorded, yet inexplicably this is the second Piramo, albeit markedly livelier and with the bonus of its two ballet suites. Schneider’s perceptive booklet note comments that too readily we find such composers immature – ‘almost like Mozart’, rather than excitingly expressive and individual. Here even the subtitle Intermezzo tragico is novel, implying a fusion of two traditions, comic and serious. The music is equally unconventional. Recitatives slip seamlessly into and out of arias, creating a strong sense of dramatic continuity. Colours are imaginative: flutes and bassoons paint a beautiful description of Piramo’s Utopia; natural horns roar rudely as the lion approaches – though he proves a rather likeable beast in his subsequent sinfonia. The performance is excellent. Monoyios, a gentle Tisbe, floats effortlessly in melting vocalises; Schlick’s Piramo contrasts, yet matches in their love duets; while Jochens, the domineering father, confirms in his remarkably jolly suicide aria that the final tragico stage, littered with the corpses of all three characters, is not to be taken too seriously.-George Pratt
The death of Georg Philipp Telemann in 1767 paved the way for his godson, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach to take up the position of Director of Music in Hamburg. Prior to that C P E Bach had been working for Frederick the Second of Prussia in Berlin but longed for a greater musical freedom and stylistic flexibility that working in Hamburg would offer him. This included the composition of three oratorios, including the one presented here. C P E Bach worked on The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus in collaboration with the librettist Karl Wilhelm Ramler from 1781, and in 1787 it was published by Breitkopf. A letter from the composer to his publisher subsequently revealed he considered it to be one of his greatest masterpieces—a reflection agreed upon by audiences at the time, and succeeding generations of composers, including Haydn and Beethoven who both drew inspiration from it.