Per l’Orchestra di Dresda
Vol. 1: Ouverture – Works by JF Fasch, Heinichen, Pisendel, Quantz and Zelenka
Coline Dutilleul (mezzo-soprano), Stephan MacLeod (baritone), Stefano Rossi (violin); Les Ambassadeurs – La Grande Écurie/Alexis Kossenko
Aparté AP258 80:29 mins
Here’s a picture of the renowned orchestra of the Court of Dresden in the first half of the 18th century, the repertoire ranging from the purely instrumental to excerpts from cantatas and masses. Despite being placed in a very resonant acoustic, the big sound of the ensemble hits you straight away in Heinichen’s Overture to Diana sull’Elba, but also exposes some weaknesses in the natural brass instruments. Their parts may be extremely virtuosic, but rhythm and intonation are often problematic, and the overall energy can’t compensate.
Heinichen is better served in the Concerto in F, which boasts some sensitive flute playing; and even more so in the vocal extracts from two of his masses, where the orchestra is smaller, and the soloists nicely balanced in the texture. They also appear in two extracts from cantatas by Zelenka, who proves himself the most imaginative composer on the disc, in terms of harmonic and rhythmic invention.
The flautists have another outing in a Double Concerto by Quantz, and reinforce their impression of shapely phrasing and tonal control – but they’re very forward and widely-spaced in the balance, and the orchestra again gives the impression of being in an enormous echo chamber in the distance. Pisendel and Fasch come off more effectively in the restrained scoring of their brief contributions, and the central movement of Telemann’s D major Violin Concerto is characterised by colourful and imaginative continuo playing from the lute, underpinning Stefano Rossi’s sinuous solo line. A mixed bag.