Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik 2018

Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik 2018
Innsbruck, 23-25 August 2017

The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music runs annually for about three weeks during August. It was founded in 1976 and has traditionally focussed on Baroque opera. In recent years it has included three each season, including the Barockoper:Jung. This uses singers chosen from the finalists of the previous year’s International Singing Competition for Baroque Opera Pietro Antonio Cesti, named after Antonio Cesti, a 17th-century Italian singer and composer who served at the Innsbruck court of Archduke Ferdinand Charles of Austria. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend for three days but those included two of the operas and the Cesti final.

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Innsbruck Festival of Early Music: 2016

Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik
16-19 August 2016

The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, although its roots go back a further 14 years or so. After some preliminary events, the festival proper ran for the last two weeks in August. It usually features three fully staged operas, although this year the third of them was reduced to a one-night concert performance of the Ruhrtriennale festival’s production of Gluck’s Alceste, conducted by René Jacobs who until 2009 was artistic director of the Innsbrucker Festwochen and, incidentally, the singer at the first concert of the first festival on 24 August 1976.

Rather surprisingly, given the anniversary nature of this year’s festival, the theme was ‘Tragicommedia’ although the events that I saw were rather more ‘commedia’ than ‘tragic’. As with last year, I was unfortunately only able to attend Continue reading

The Organ Tablature from Klagenfurt

The Organ Tablature from Klagenfurt
Manfred Novak, organ
1558 Ebert organ, Innsbruck Hofkirche
MDG 606 1701-2. 54’03+49’42

Anonymous: Exercitatio bona, Petre amas me; Josquin Desprez: In principio erat verbum, Agnus Dei, Mille regretz, Miserere mei, Pater noster, Stabat mater dolorosa; Jean Mouton: Tua est potentia a 5; Pierre de la Rue?: Patrem omnipotentem; Ludwig Senfl; De profundis a 5, Nisi Dominus, Preambulum a 6; Claudin de Sermisy: Le content; Philippe Verdelot; Infirmitatem a 5.

There cannot be a more appropriate merging of organ and music than is found on this CD. Although there is no specific evidence, the Klagenfurter Orgeltabulatur seems to have been written around 1560 and was possibly written for a Carinthian monastery in central Austria. It is now in the state archives of the state of Carinthia (as Klagl. 4/3). It is the earliest known collection of keyboard music in Austria, and one of the first to use the ‘New German Organ Tablature’ letter notation. At the same time as it was being prepared, Jörg Ebert was making a bit of a meal of building the organ commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I for the Court Church in Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol. He had been appointed in 1555, but progress was slow and, as a result, he nearly lost the contract. But by 1558 the organ was substantially complete, and was inspected and approved in 1561. A seminal restoration in the 1970s (by Ahrend) produced an excellent, and rare, example of a Renaissance organ, with only three stops having to be reconstructed from new. I gave a recital on it last year, and it is an absolute joy to play. Continue reading

Innsbruck Festival of Early Music 2015

Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik
20-24 August 2015

WP_20150820_19_55_32_ProThe annual Innsbruck Festival of Early Music runs for the last 3 weeks of August (14-28) and includes amongst its many events the Cesti international baroque opera singing competition (reviewed separately) and an opera cast from finalists of the previous year’s Cesti competition. This year I was only able to be in Innsbruck for four days (20-24 August) rather than my usual week, so missed some of the potential highlights, including Porpora’s opera Il Germanica and a recital on the rarely heard little 1580 Italian organ in the Silberne Kapelle of the Hofkirche. The theme of the festival was “Stylus phantasticus” but, as in previous years, this was rather loosely interpreted.

The festival opened (for me) in one of the many architectural delights of Innsbruck, the Schloss Ambras (a Hapsburg stronghold since the 1300s) and, in particular, the spectacular Renaissance Spanischer Saal, built for Archduke Ferdinand II around 1570. Niccolo Jommelli’s intermezzo Don Trastullo was originally intended to be performed in two halves between the acts of an opera – making for a long evening. Like others of its kind, it is a light comedy. With just three characters (and a large box from or into which they occasionally popped), the story tells of the elderly Don who is deceived by a flirtatious young woman Arsenia. The actual relationship between them is unclear, but he clearly has taken a shine to her. She leads him on, whilst secretly plWP_20150820_19_13_18_Proaning to hoodwink him and make off with his money and her actual lover, an alleged Baron, Giambarone. For this performance, the three characters were sung by soprano Robin Johannsen, bass Federico Sacchi and tenor Franscesco Castoro, with direction from Christoph von Bernuth. The orchestra was the ten-strong Academia Montis Regalis, conducted from the harpsichord by the festival director Alessandro De Marchi.
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Innsbruck: 2015 Cesti Singing Competition for Baroque Opera

Innsbruck: Cesti Singing Competition
Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik, 21-25 August 2015

WP_20150821_14_08_22_ProThe 6th incarnation of the rather convolutedely-worded ‘International Singing Competition for Baroque Opera: Pietro Antonio Cesti’ took place during the last few days of the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music, with preliminary rounds on 21-23 August and the final on 25 August. A total of 67 singers from 26 countries entered for the competition, a considerable reduction from last year’s entry of 97 singers from 32 countries. They have to fund their own travel and accommodation during the competition, so this is a very big investment for young singers, with monetary prizes only going to four of them. As well as the prizes (1st 2nd and 3rd prizes of €4,000, €3,000 & €2,000, together with an audience prize of €1,000), there is the opportunity to appear in next year’s BarockOper:Jung production of Pietro Antonio Cesti’s Le nozze il Sognio by as part of the 2016 Innsbruck Festival of Early Music. There is also the possibility of being selected to appear in other music festivals, many connected to members of the jury, most of whom represent opera venues. Continue reading