Texte paru dans: / Appeared in:

International Record Review - (09//2013)
Pour s'abonner / Subscription information


Code-barres / Barcode: 0888837048125

Consultez toutes les évaluations recensées pour ce cd ~~~~ Reach all the evaluations located for this CD

Appréciation d'ensemble/ Evaluation : Piers Burton-Page

There are many hands at work here; possibly, too many. There was John Dryden’s original Ode from I697 called Alexander’s Feast. There was Newburgh Hamilton, who turned it into a libretto for Handel in 1736. There was Carl Wilhelm Ramler, who in 1766 created a German translation, in the process preferring to think of the bard Timotheus rather than Alexander as protagonist, and changing the title accordingly, to Timotheus, or The Power of Music. Then there was Mozart, who the year before his death added to and modernized Handel’s orchestration, setting the translated text. And then there was Ignaz von Mosel, not a name to conjure with even now, who in 1812 added his own further gloss to the score. The pretext for this final act appears to have been twofold. On the one hand, say the booklet notes, it may have been a covert act of defiance to Napoleon’s occupation of Vienna: ‘Revenge, Timotheus cries’, being of course one of the more celebrated numbers in Alexander’s Feast. The concert as not-so-subtle political, or perhaps better patriotic, demonstration, which took place on November 29th, 1812, along with further subsequent large-scale choral concerts, had the further consequence that it led in 1814 to the official foundation of the famous Viennese Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, or Society of the Friends of Music, an institution that continues to this day. Amongst its other functions the Society owns an archive containing many precious musical treasures, artefacts as well as scores. Its archivist supplies the aforementioned notes and mentions that the archive contains the original orchestral parts from that 1812 concert, complete with Mosel’s own additions. Unfortunately he does not elaborate on those additions beyond telling us that Mosel supplied an extra part for bass drum.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt studied this material in preparation for his re-creation of that seemingly momentous occasion. Some of Mosel’s changes were probably triggered by the venue, and the numbers of performers involved. It seems there were almost 600 of them, and the venue was huge: the Kaiserlich-königlich Hofreitschule, still extant, though not as far as I know used for concerts these days, even monster ones: it is better known as the Spanish Riding School! Harnoncourt attempts to remain true to the spirit of the occasion by cramming as many people on to the platform of the Vienna Musikverein as he can, employing the present-day descendants of the original choir, the short form of whose name is the Vienna Singverein, and using the period instruments of his own Concentus Musicus. This replica concert was recorded live 200 years to the day from the original event and there must have been a distinct frisson to the proceedings.

Without the intervening instrumental concerti grossi interpolated by Handel into the original London performances, Timotheus runs to under 100 minutes of music. It therefore spreads on to two CDs, the second of which runs to barely half an hour; there is no fill-up. The booklet usefully prints the German and English texts in parallel, the latter in the version set by Handel in Alexander’s Feast. It does not, however, attempt to transcribe or translate Harnoncourt’s words to the audience at the start of the second disc, in which for five minutes or so, in German, he invites audience participation in the chorus ‘Brich die Bande seines Schlummers’ (‘Break his bands of sleep asunder’, designed to rouse Alexander from stupor), and amid considerable hilarity duly rehearses everybody in it. The chorus is then performed tutti and even for good measure encored, before Gerald Finley is at last allowed to launch into the ensuing aria, ‘ Gib Rach’ ! heuit alles laut ‘ , aka ‘ Revenge, Timotheus cries’.

There is plenty else for the Singverein to get its collective teeth into, some of it in Handel’s noisiest or most celebratory vein, for example (given that this was originally a St Cecilia’s Day Ode), ‘Die ganze Schar erhebt ein Lobgeschrei: Heil Liebe, dir! Dir, Tonkunst, Ehr’ und Dank! ‘ , which is Ramler’s hardly prize-winning version of Dryden’s couplet ‘The many rend the skies with loud applause; So Love was crown’d, but Music won the cause ‘ . The pick of the three soloists is undoubtedly Roberta Invernizzi: the other two, doubtless taking their cue from the jovial bonhomie very apparent on this festive occasion, are mildly blustery once or twice: Finley’s celebration of Bacchus is given with a suitably military swagger — an NCO’s, possibly. The soprano maintains enviably pure tone in ‘He sang Darius great and good’ and injects some suitably coy drama into the moment where Alexander falls into his stupor: ‘At length with love and wine oppress’d, the vanquish’d victor sunk upon her breast’. Be assured that the German version is even less memorable.

It takes a lot of effort on all sides to rouse Alexander once more, but the added bass drum helps. Leaving aside the party-like junketings referred to above, there is applause for Harnoncourt’s arrival at the start, then again at the end of the first disc, and plenty more at the end, and you are often aware of the audience elsewhere too. So this is very much a one-off: to be candid, it has not got too much going for it and quite a lot against. Unless, of course, you happen to be Viennese .
Fermer la fenêtre/Close window


Cliquez l'un ou l'autre bouton pour découvrir bien d'autres critiques de CD
 Click either button for many other reviews