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Il Concerto Barocco - Sepolcro - Early Music Review

15 October 2007
Early Music Review

This recital disc combines two fairly substantial vocal works with three of Schmelzer's best known ensemble sonatas and the famous lament on the Death of Ferdinand III.  The longest work is one of those Viennese curiosities, a sepolchro oratorio, which were apparently performed in the royal chapel in front of a painted scene of the crucified Christ.  This work Die Starcke der Liebe, is even more unusual for being set in German, but it follows the normal pattern of 'scenes', mostly for solo voices with instrumental ritornelli at the end of the 'arias'.  The other vocal work is a (partial) Requiem setting which is scored for four voices, three 'viole' and continuo.  When I directed a performance in Edinburgh five years ago, we used gambas, but Il Concerto Barocco opts for braccio instruments.  I was slightly disappointed by the brisk tempi - some of the harmonic shifts are so effective that it seems a shame to sweep over them, regardless of just how unusual a chord of A flat major might sound in a piece in F major.  Obsessed as I might be by Schmelzer's vocal music, even I must confess  that the sepolcro isn't among his finest worls (it only really comes alive in the final Tutti), but I hope this recording will draw wider attention to the gems that remain to be enjoyed by performers and audiences around the world. 
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