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09 Jun 2018

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Orpheus : Songs, madrigals and arias from the 17th century - Julian Prégardien, Teatro del Mondo, Andreas Küppers

A review by Anne Ozorio

Cpo 5551682[CD]

£9.48  Click to buy

Orpheus himself is described in the first set, beginning with a song by Robert Johnson (1583-1633), it begins with strong single chords and bold exclamation : "Orpheus, I am, come from the deeps below, to thee, fond man, the plagues of love to show". Dramatic declamation "Ha-a-a-ark ! how they groan who died despairing". Ma, divertirmi lo voglio from a opera from 1683 by Antonio Draghi (1634-1700), with an extended central section where low timbred strings - violas de gamba and theorbos-sing a grave yet sensuous melody, enchanting the beasts of the wild. The pace picks up more brightly as Orpheus moves on. Maurice Greene (1696-1755), who was Master of The King's Music to George II, set Shakespeare for Orpheus with His Lute, the vocal line elegantly decorated, and accompanied by flute and harpsichord. It is followed, aptly, by Greene's successor, William Byrd's Come woeful Orpheus an instrumental piece for violins and violas de gamba. In contrast, a return to a much earlier sensibility, with Als Orpheus schlug seine Instrument, by Gabriel Voigtländer (1596-1643). The vocal line is pure, with minimal accompaniment, each strophe clearly defined - almost a Minnelied ! Voigtländer, who was part of Wallenstein's army in the Thirty Years War, published a well known collection of songs.

Eurydice is introduced by Antri ch' o miei lamenti by Jacapo Peri (1561-1633), first performed at the Pitti Palace. Accompanied by baroque organ and muted strings, it's a stately piece, the vocal line laudatory. Similar orchestration for Nachtklag, from Johann Erasmus Kindermann (1616-1655) to a texts by Martin Orpitz, the "Father of German Poetry" and contemporary of Shakespeare. Kindermann, who came from Nuremberg and would have known of Hans Sachs as well as Orpitz, so his Opitianischer Orpheus from which several,pieces on this recording are taken, sounds like an interesting work which might be worth hearing in greater depth. Jacopo Peri's lively Al fonte, il prato, and Fransceco Rasi's Filia Mia are followed by Claudio Monteverdi's Vi ricorda o boschi ombrosi, from Orfeo, Orpheus's song of love for Eurydice.

But as we know, Eurydice dies on her wedding day. Mournful pipes (flutes) and organ introduce Luigi Rossi's Les pleurs d'Orphée ayant perdu sa femme from Rossi's opera Orphée, a great success at the Palais Royale in 1647. Two airs by Thomas Campion, Break now, my Heart and Oft have I sigh'd , give vocal expression to Orpheus's grief. From Jacopo Peri's opera L'Euridice, Non plango. where the vocal line is at once plangent and dramatic. From Johann Erasmus Kindermann's Opitianischer Orpheus, the air Jetzund kommt die Nacht herbei Orpheus plans to challenge Death itself. An anonymous Passacaglia for lautenwerk (lute-klavier) strings marks Orpheus's entry into the Underworld. Henry Purcell's Charon the peaceful shade invites invokes Charon who ferries the dead over the River Styx. Domenico Belli's Orfeo dolente was one of the most popular operas of its time(1616), and here is represented by Numi d'Abisso. It's followed by an elegant threnody on baroque harp, Toccata secondo by Giovanni Maria Trabaci (1575-1647) and Monteverdi's Qual Honor also from L'Orfeo.

To signify Orpheus's attempt to lead Eurydice out from the Underworld, another instrumental interlude, Prélude 4 from Antoine Francisque (1570-1605)'s Le Trésor d' Orphée, and another song Ach Liebste, lass uns eilen again from Kindermann's Opitanischer Orpheus. More Jacopo Peri (Giote al vcanto mio) and Johan Steffens (1560-16161) Orpheus die Harfen schlug so fein for salterio (hammered dulcimer). Steffans (1560-1616) was North German, and in this context represents the more understated northern baroque aesthetic. Orpheus could not save Eurydice, and had to return to the world alone. But Kindermann and Orpitz have the last word. "Doch wann du wärest gleich da, wo die Sonn aufgehet, und ich im Abende, wo Hesperus entstehet, so scheidet uns doch nichts" (If you could be where the sun rises and I in the evening, when Hesperus rises, we cannot be torn apart) Eventually Orpheus will die too, ripped apart by furies, but until then he plays his lute and is at one with nature. Thus the finale, an anonymous piece The Indian Nightingale, probably English, for almost the whole ensemble - flutes, violins, salterio, baroque harp and harpsichord - exquisitely pure and Spring like, evoking the song of the nightingale, Nature's equivalent of Orpheus and his lute. Lively, fresh performances from Andreas Küppers, and Teatro del mondo, with Julian Prégardien singing in a range of languages and different styles. His voice is youthful,as Orpheus was, and plaintive when needed. It doesn't matter a bit that his English isn't as perfect as his German or Italian. He's charming and has a lucid voice, which is what counts. Georgian England was full of German musicians. In any case,this excellent recording proves that art transcends nationality.

Anne Ozorio

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