One of the outstanding composers of his day, Johann Adolph Hasse was seen as possessing “the same qualities of true genius, taste and judgment” as his librettist Pietro Metastasio. Didone abbandonata represents the once hugely popular 18th-century genre of opera seria, exploring the same tragic story as Purcell’s earlier Dido and Aeneas while expanding the heroine’s conflicts between regal duties, love, and helplessness in the face of desertion.
Gérard Lesne has already given us some glorious music by largely forgotten composers such as Galuppi and Jommelli. Now he’s turned to Hasse, little-known in this year of his tercentenary but renowned in the 1700s for his operas and oratorios. A German-born composer of Italianate music, Hasse’s work exemplifies the stylistic transition from late Baroque through galant to early Viennese classicism. His 1742 sacred oratorio I pellegrini al sepolcro di Nostro Signore (The Pilgrims at the Tomb of Our Lord) is operatic in style, its succession of busy, inventive da capo arias impressively sung here by Lesne and his team, though Il Seminario Musicale’s strings can sound dry.
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
Faustina Bordoni was one half of Handel’s so-called ‘Rival Queens’ for just under three seasons (172628), and in 1730 she married Hasse in Venice – so Vivica Genaux’s recital of arias for Faustina by Handel and Hasse is such an obviously sensible idea that it’s amazing it hasn’t been done before. Quantz praised Faustina’s immaculate articulation and excellent trills – and Genaux lives up to that vocal artistry brilliantly with the copious trills and arching melodic phrases in the long but lovely ‘Piange quel fonte’ from Hasse’s Numa Pompilio.
The two Johann Adolf Hasse compositions recorded here are proof of the both high quality of his music and the broad range of styles which he had at his disposal. Once again Hans-Christoph Rademann offers an exemplary interpretation of music from the Court of Dresden, to which he has often dedicated his musical efforts.
“Under the direction of Hans-Christoph Rademann the Dresdner Barockorchester and the superb Chamber Choir bring a homogeneous, lean performance which follows integrally the gesture of the text and provides many moving moments. Thus with its penetrating tone language this live recording brings to life two unjustly forgotten masterworks of the 18th century.”
Following the appearance of the first CD recording of the new organ in the reconstructed Dresden Frauenkirche (with organist Samuel Kummer, Carus 83.188) at last, the first live concert performance has just been released on the Carus label. The G minor Mass is the “Opus ultimum” of the 84-year-old Johann Adolf Hasse, who for almost three decades dominated musical life at the Saxon Court of Dresden and who was regarded as the musical idol of his era. The centerpiece of the work of a type known as a “Missa solemnis” is a seven-movement Gloria, with brilliant, extended trumpet parts. The G minor Mass is an attractive work which shines as a result of ist beautiful sound, depth of expression and the richness of its harmonic ideas. It is conducted by Ludwig Güttler, who devoted his energies towards the reconstruction of the Dresdner Frauenkirche.
These recordings were produced in the 1980s by the Radio of the German Democratic Republic from performances given in the historic Catholic Court Church in Dresden.
“During this visit, these young ladies were so obliging as to sing me a Salve regina, lately set by their father, in duo. It is an exquisite composition, full of grace, taste and propriety.” What more could one ask of an antiphon than that which Charles Burney found in an impromptu performance by Hasse’s daughters during a visit to their father in Vienna in 1772? Hasse composed several settings of the Salve regina of which Reinhard Goebel has chosen two for his interesting programme of vocal and instrumental pieces by the composer.