Dittersdorf: Giob

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COMPOSERS: Dittersdorf
LABELS: Koch
WORKS: Giob
PERFORMER: Simone Kermes, Linda Perillo (soprano), Beat Duddeck (countertenor), Markus Schäfer, Bernhard Scheffel (tenor), Ekkehard Abele (bass-baritone); Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
CATALOGUE NO: 5-2271-2
You really do need the patience of Job for this one. The oratorios of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf have

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lain harmlessly dormant for decades; and it took the enterprise of the Wratislava Cantans festival in Wroclaw to awaken Giob, the most mature of the composer’s four Biblical oratorios. The conductor/musicologist Hermann Max has done conscientious work both in reconstructing and assembling his own forces (the Rheinische Kantorei and Das Kleine Konzert) for the project. But was it worth it?

Dittersdorf was nothing if not fluent, as his huge output of symphonies and Singspiels alone reveals. But it takes more than fluency and formula to seize on the drama of the great archetype of mankind’s sufferings. And, with music as complacent as some of the more moralising sentiments of the libretto, it is at least to the performers’ credit that one can suspend disbelief in it all for even a passing moment.

The young tenor Markus Schäfer sounds totally committed in hymning divine love and mercy, even in the midst of his physical (and musical) tribulations; and soprano Simone Kermes, caught somewhere between Gluck’s Orfeo and Mozart’s Queen of the Night, puts a brave face on it all as Job’s wife, Zara. The fey countertenor Beat Duddeck and tenor Bernhard Scheffel are sorely tried, though, in their roles as Job’s friends Elifaz and Baldad, while bass-baritone Ekkehard Abele aptly blusters away in his conjuring of the turbulent storms of Job’s ‘giorno orrendo’ – one of rather too many.

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Those who don’t know their Bible will be further baffled by programme notes which appear only in Polish, and texts only in Polish and a much-flawed Italian. Oh, and one or two pages printed upside-down… Hilary Finch