Concerti per l'orchestra di Dresda
If readers judge some of the pieces on this recording from Reinhard Goebel and Cologne Musica Antiqua to be a little lacking in musical substance they will be generously compensated in matters of instrumental colour. During the first half of the eighteenth century the Dresden court orchestra enjoyed international renown. Its excellence was on a par with those at Berlin, Paris and Vivaldi’s orchestra of ladies at the Pieta in Venice. The Enlightenment philosopher and amateur musician, Rousseau, rated it the most accomplished and best organized ensemble in Europe – and he had heard most of the competition. The Dresden achievement was largely thanks to Pisendel, who directed the court orchestra for over a quarter of a century and whose prowess as a violin virtuoso was probably unrivalled in Germany during his lifetime. Pisendel travelled, he knew Vivaldi and doubtless many other foreign musicians too, and he amassed a considerable number of their compositions which he copied or brought back with him to Dresden. To some extent this disc is a tribute to Pisendel for, although only one short work by him appears on Goebel’s menu, much of the remaining music and above all the sumptuous scoring of the Heinichen ‘concerto’ – it is in fact a suite – reflects his imaginative and innovative flair as a Konzertmeister.
All but one of the pieces here are representative of the kind of music performed by the Dresden orchestra in what Goebel has aptly described as its Augustan Age. Indeed, much of it may well have actually been played by the court band, with the exception of Veracini’s Overture No. 5 in B flat. Veracini wrote six such pieces, the remaining five having already appeared in a premiere recording from Goebel a few months ago (Archiv, 12/94). These pieces probably have nothing to do with Dresden but, since all six could not be accommodated on a single disc, the previously omitted item has been slotted in here.
Cologne Musica Antiqua are on crisply incisive form throughout the programme. Horns are stretched to their limits in the Heinichen but such cliff-hanger writing only serves to remind us of the virtuosity of the Dresden wind section. Part of this elaborate suite, by the way, was included in Goebel’s earlier Heinichen anthology (Archiv, 5/93). French composer, Charles Dieupart, who was domiciled in England, is represented by a pretty though lightweight Concerto for sopranino recorder and strings with colla parte oboes. Fasch is more impressive with his Concerto in D minor for lute and strings. Indeed, we may reckon him as among the greatest talents on the disc, and not least for the work’s imaginative middle movement Andante. Pisendel’s two-movement orchestral Sonata in C minor – such one- or two-movement pieces by him were apparently played during Mass, while the gradual was being sung – is a splendid composition with a vigorous and effectively worked Allegro. Heinichen’s Christmas Pastorale presumably comes from a sacred vocal work. It’s an attractive piece for oboes and strings in the siciliano rhythm of many such movements by Italian concerto composers, including Torelli, who was resident at Ausbach and who was Pisendel’s teacher. Quantz the composer too often gets a bad press from critics. This virtuoso Concerto in G major for two flutes has qualities of sterling merit, with dazzling solo parts and tutti episodes whose interest extends well beyond the merely functional. Veracini’s overtures are, of course, ouverture-suites in the French manner. Certainly, they have their moments but I find them only intermittently diverting.
In summary, this is a release full of charm and surprises. It is, as I say, outstandingly well played, and contains a measure of colour and virtuosity which holds the attention from start to finish. A laurel wreath to Maestro Goebel for investigative, imaginative programming, and for the disciplined, vital direction of his band, a veritable Dresden court orchestra reborn.'