The conventional wisdom about Venetian Antonio Lotti, composer of the a cappella masterwork "Crucifixus," is that as a card-carrying member of the stil antico he represented a conservative viewpoint akin to that of his later contemporary Leonardo Leo – the fewer instruments the better, the closer to the polyphonic language of Palestrina the better. Moreover, if the "Crucifixus" was the only work of Lotti that someone became acquainted with, then he/she could not be blamed for believing this was so, although he/she might note the distinct Baroque harmonic coloring of the piece as being rather unlike that of Palestrina. Here is a challenge for you – CPO's Antonio Lotti: Vesper Psalms performed by the Sächsisches Vocalensemble and Batzdorfer Hofkapelle under Matthias Jung. It presents a selection of Lotti's surviving concerted sacred choral works, pieces that are scored with a small Baroque orchestra and easily comparable to contemporary music by Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, and his direct competitor Antonio Vivaldi. Careful scrutiny of the poorly compiled worklist for Lotti in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians reveals that some of these pieces are so listed, but with no mention whatsoever of the instrumental forces involved; they are identified as a cappella works just like the others. One wonders to the extent of Grove's oversight in this matter.
Franz Krommer (1759-1831) was a prolific and very good composer, whose music is now being resuscitated with great and deserved success. It was difficult to be a composer in Vienna at the same time as Beethoven and Schubert, and most of their contemporaries have not survived the pressure. But Krommer managed to retain his personality and originality, becoming the last official director of chamber music and court composer to the Habsburg court under the conservative Emperor Francis I. The first of the two symphonies was published in 1803. Among its many interesting features is a haunting litde trio in the form of a waltz. The second work is much later, with four horns and three trombones, and is in C minor, but ending in the major. In both works, Krommer's knowledge of, and predilection for, the wind instruments is notable. The two works were well worth recording, especially with such felicitous performances and bright, pleasing recorded sound.
From 1920s Vienna and the Berlin of the Weimar Republic to emigration to the USA, then back to Vienna after the defeat of Nazism, to end his days in East Berlin: Hanns Eisler’s life was one long exile against the backcloth of the artistic, technical, and political revolutions of the 20th century. Distance, irony, and melancholy are the aesthetic corollaries that characterise the lieder presented here, their atmosphere often evoking the despair of those dark times. The early piano sonata gained the young Eisler an admiration that has never dimmed since.
Matthias Kirschnereit is one of the leading German pianists of his generation. His international solo career has taken him to five continents. He has very close links to the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, with whom he is recording Mozart's collected piano concertos for Arte Nova. Kirschnereit's fascination with Mozart's piano concertos dates back to his youth.
It's the late Vier ernste Gesänge, Op. 121, that get the big print on the cover of this release by the awe-inspiring baritone Matthias Goerne, but actually the music on the album falls into a neat early-middle-late classification scheme. The group of middle-period settings of poetry by Heinrich Heine doesn't even get graphics on the cover, but these are fascinating. Brahms wrote a lot of songs, but you couldn't do better than the selection and performances here for a cornerstone collection item. Beyond the sheer beauty of Goerne's voice is an ability to shift gears to match how Brahms' style evolved. If you want to hear his real slashing, operatic high notes, check out the Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 32, settings of poems by the minor poets Georg Friedrich Daumer and Karl August Graf von Platen. These rather overwrought texts add up to a kind of slimmed-down Winterreise, and they catch the spirit of the still-young Brahms with his strong passions, elegantly controlled. The Heine settings, which come from several different sets of lieder, are not that often heard and are in some ways the most compelling of the group here.