Hasse: I pellegrini al sepolcro di Nostro Signore

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COMPOSERS: Hasse
LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: I pellegrini al sepolcro di Nostro Signore
PERFORMER: Rachel Elliott, Valérie Gabail (soprano), Gérard Lesne, Michael Chance (alto), Peter Harvey (bass); Il Seminario Musicale/Gérard Lesne
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45329 2
Gérard Lesne has already given us some glorious music by largely forgotten composers such as Galuppi and Jommelli. Now he’s turned to Hasse, little-known in this year of his tercentenary but renowned in the 1700s for his operas and oratorios. A German-born composer of Italianate music, Hasse’s work exemplifies the stylistic transition from late Baroque through galant to early Viennese classicism. His 1742 sacred oratorio I pellegrini al sepolcro di Nostro Signore (The Pilgrims at the Tomb of Our Lord) is operatic in style, its succession of busy, inventive da capo arias impressively sung here by Lesne and his team, though Il Seminario Musicale’s strings can sound dry.

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Hasse is featured, too, in Opus 111’s new budget-price reissue series, Invitation. Mottetti virtuosi, recorded in 1993, comprises one sacred motet and one Salve Regina apiece for alto and soprano soloists. Though this music is less ambitious than I pellegrini’s, Hasse’s melodic gifts are even more evident, as are his links back to Handel (the lilting ‘Caelesti incendi amoris’) and forward to Haydn (the exquisite G major ‘Et Jesu’). Fine performances, capped by Monique Zanetti’s limpid soprano, make this disc an ideal introduction to Hasse at his most engagingly lyrical. Graham Lock