Posted in Uncategorized on April 10, 2011 |
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Sometimes at festivals devoted to the music of one composer, ensembles turn up and play one token piece and then feed the audience the repertoire they *really* want to play. The Philadelphia-based baroque orchestra Tempesta di Mare merely underlined the fact that they are utterly devoted to Fasch’s music in the Catherinen-Saal in Zerbst tonight with an often breath-taking programme that consisted purely of his works, including two that had not been heard anywhere in Europe since the 18th century…
Only once at a previous Fasch-Festtage have I been really *excited* to hear Fasch’s music. When the Sonatori della Gioiosa Marca gave us an Italian take on his oeuvre, it was *so* different to the normal German take – there was a sparkle and an energy to their performances; it was somehow like re-discovering why I love baroque music.
The 18 musicians of Tempesta di Mare gave me precisely that sensation tonight, too – they didn’t just play the notes, they really got under Fasch’s skin and sought out nuances of phrasing that have evaded many a “more famous” ensemble (in these parts, at least). Frankly, I was shocked that mdr (the regional state radio station, which had recorded the two previous concerts I attended – the second of which I did not even review here, for fear of upsetting some of the performers) thought it somehow appropriate NOT to record the first ever appearance at these events of a group from outside Europe – and what a great error of judgment THAT turned out to be. Word among those of the audience who actually knew anything about music and performance was that, quite simply, this was the best Fasch they had ever heard in all the years of the Zerbst Festtage. The Kantor of the Bartholomäikirche was particularly impressed by the way they brought the music to life. Four winners of the Fasch-Preis der Stadt Zerbst (people honoured by the city for their work on the composer and his music) were absolutely in agreement.
That is hardly surprising, though; Tempesta di Mare already have one very successful CD of Fasch’s orchestral music under their belt and are preparing a second; they’ve given several concerts of his music in the States; it is repertoire they love playing, and it is self-evident from their performances! From the intimacy of the lute concerto (with co-director Richard Stone as soloist, accompanied by a reduced band), through the drama and excitement of a slightly sinister-sounding sinfonia (directed by principle violinist Emlyn Ngai), to two large concertos and an overture suite (featuring the other co-director Gwym Roberts on 1st flute), there was nothing fault in the entire evening.
I say: Shame on you, mdr! And, what’s more, your loss!
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Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2011 |
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The 11th festival devoted to the life and works of Johann Friedrich Fasch and his son, Carl Fasch (best known as founder of the Sing-Academie in Berlin) started this evening in the Sachsen-Anhalt town of Zerbst, where Fasch senior was Kapellmeister from September 1722 until his death in 1758.
After the formal introductions from the mayor, a representative of the Sachsen-Anhalt Culture Minister and Barbara Reul, the current President of the International Fasch Society (though not for much longer!), the Fasch-Preis der Stadt Zerbst was awarded to Hans-Heinrich Kriegel, who works as an orchestral oboist in Bochum, and who founded the Fasch Collegium in Bochum (with whom he has played for over 20 years now!), and who has edited and published dozens of previously unavailable works by J. F. Fasch.
The concert which followed was given by the Main-Barockorchester Frankfurt, and included works by Fasch (father and son!), and three major Dresden contemporaries – Heinichen, Pisendel and Zelenka. For most of the time, the band consisted of strings with double reeds and continuo. Works included a jolly D major sinfonia and the celebrated C minor concerto for Bassoon with 2 oboes and strings by Fasch (senior) – though parts of the latter were a little hasty for my taste – and a fine performance of Pisendel’s G minor violin concerto by leader, Martin Jopp. The concert ended with a piece of sheer indulgence – two flutes and two horns joined the ensemble for the 1st modern performance of a Sinfonia in F, reputedly written by 16-year-old Carl Fasch. Making allowances for his youth, it was not a bad effort, but it was hardly the prodigious stuff Mozart or Mendelssohn came up with.
Inevitably with a performance that was being broadcast live on radio, there were delays and hiccups, so it was hardly surprising that there was an odd squeak from an oboe, but overall this was a thoroughly professional performance, though I would question their decision to seat the double reeds at the front of the ensemble – how is the 2nd oboist to follow indications from the 2nd violins who are behind him?
Although I loved the music and enjoyed the performances, I will most remember this concert for the last person in the hall to switch off their mobile phone being one of the performers…
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Posted in Musicology on April 6, 2011 |
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In London, you can visit The Handel House. There’s a Bachhaus in Leipzig. You can play Beethoven’s violin in Bonn, or Mozart’s piano in Salzburg. But when it comes to minor composers, it becomes a little more tricky. My friend and colleague, Barbara Reul, who has been scrutinizing the accumulated debts of Johann Friedrich Fasch, was utterly convinced that he could not have afforded to own a house. Most people have suggested, “Oh, he most likely had quarters in the Zerbst castle.” But, as she points out, there is an extant letter in which he complains about getting cold on his way to and from the castle every day…
We may now have at least a partial answer to the mystery – and from a most unlikely source. We are currently in Zerbst (the next Fasch Festival starts later this week), and have spent a good few hours poring over filthy documents in one of the town’s archives. Among them is a modest looking book which contains data pertaining to the construction of a graveyard. The court authorities had apparently decided that, since everyone in the town would eventually benefit from it, they should make a contribution. So there are several sections, each beginning with a declaration by the overseer of the project, confirming that the named individuals are appointed as his agents in various parts of the town. Then there is a street by street list of each area, along with the name of the property’s owner and a column into which the amount they contributed is written. But Capellmeister Fasch is not listed among them – his name appears at the end of the first section (the area closest to the castle grounds) along with other people who rent properties. By cross-referencing, we know from whom he rented, and we know on which street he lived (at least for some of the year 1743!), but as for a specific house to transform into a museum for the man? Not a hope!
It is rather sad to think that a man who rose so early every morning, spent his every waking hour composing, directing, teaching and copying performance materials and yet never shook off his vast debts should have lived in such modest and anonymous surroundings. At least his music never really seems to convey any unhappiness – anger and frustration sometimes, perhaps
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