Giuseppe Peranda: Sacred Music from Dresden

Giuseppe Peranda: Sacred Music from Dresden
Abendmusiken Basel, Jorg-Andreas Botticher
Coviello COV91904. 75’45

Giuseppe Peranda: Missa in A minor, Repleti Sunt OmnesAccurite Gentes,
Fasciculus myrrhae, Timor Et Tremor, Factum Est Proelium
Vicenzo Albrici: Sinfonia à 2
David Pohle Sonata à 6,

The recording sheds a fascinating insight into musical life in mid-17th-century Dresden. After a hiatus in the 1630/40s as a result of the Thirty Years War, the Kapellmeister Heinrich Schütz attempted to revive the musical life of the Court, but with little success or encouragement. In 1656 a new Elector, Johann Georg II, reorganised musical life, built on the fact that Italians were now more prominent than German-speaking musicians, and were paid far more. He promoted Giuseppe Peranda to Kapellmeister who, along with with Vincenzo Albrici, established a new direction in sacred music, with a stronger emphasis on melody and rhythmic inventiveness – the hallmark of the Italian early Baroque. Their music was developed from the style of Carissimi and, earlier, Viadana. On Schütz’s death in 1672, the Court Chaplain commented, no doubt reflecting Schütz’s own views, that: “a new style of singing reigns, extravagant, dance-like, not the least devout and more appropriate to the theatre”. Although no doubt intended as a criticism of the new style, it is a very effective description of the Baroque idiom, of which Giuseppe Peranda is a fine example.

Giuseppe Peranda (c1625-1675) appears to have come from Rome, or at least lived there from an early age, and was singing in Chiesa del Gesù in the late 1740s. He was head-hunted by Saxony around 1651 and moved to Dresden, where he quickly made an impression. The Mass in A which opens the recording probably comes from his early years as Kapellmeister but was later revised. The version here is an early one, from a score that belonged to JS Bach who performed the Kyrie in Weimar in 1715. It is a sumptuous two-movement setting (Kyrie – Gloria) for six voices and instruments. It uses a wide variety of musical textures and timbres, with passages for one or two voices contrasted by the full chorus. Sopranos Maria Cristina Kiehr and Miriam Feuersinger make particularly effective contributions, here and elsewhere on the recording. Violinists Katharina Heutjer & Regula Keller and cornettists Bork-Frithjof Smith & Gebhard David provide much of the instrumental colour.

It is followed by five vocal concertos by Peranda and two instrumental pieces by Peranda’s contemporaries, Vicenzo Albrici and David Pohle – all world premiere recordings. Albrici’s Sinfonia à 2 for two violins and continuo has a vocal texture and structure, while Pohle’s more complex Sonata à 6 reflects the distinctive style of the mid-17th-century Baroque. The Peranda motets include the Pentecost Repleti Sunt Omnes, with an alto supported by two violins and a tenor with two cornetts and bassoon. The Easter concerto Accurite Gentes, reveals Perando’s Roman influences, not least in its dance-like rhythms. Fasciculus myrrhae is on a larger scale. Dating from 1662, each verse is sung by a different voice, contrasted by instrumental ritornellos. Timor Et Tremor is more conservative in style, with four voices and two violins The magnificent concluding 1666 Factum Est Proelium depicts the battle between Lucifer and the Archangel Michael in dramatic form.

The singing and playing from Abendmusiken Basel is excellent, notably the sopranos, Maria Cristina Kiehr and Miriam Feuersinger. Instrumental colour comes from cornetts, violins, trombones, bassoon, strings, and continuo. My only quibble is that the harpsichord is rather prominent, while the organ is often barely audible. It is a guess, but I would have thought that the organ would have been the more prominent instrument in the original performances.  Jorg-Andreas Botticher’s direction is sensitive and stylistically appropriate.  

It was recorded, not in Basel, but over the border in the Martinskirche in  Müllheim, Germany. The acoustic is comfortably resonant, and the recording captures both the expanse of the space and the intimacy of the performers. As well as casting a light on a little known composer of considerable merit, this recording contains some really attractive music and excellent performances. My review of an earlier recording by Abendmusiken Basel and Jorg-Andreas Botticher can be found here.