Holzbauer: Günther von Schwarzburg

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COMPOSERS: Holzbauer
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Günther von Schwarzburg
PERFORMER: Robert Wörle, Michael Schopper, Claron McFadden, Clarry Bartha, Christoph Prégardien; Ensemble La Stagione/ Michael Schneider
CATALOGUE NO: 999 265-2 DDD
The Viennese-born composer Holzbauer achieved historical importance as a pre-Classical symphonist and as a composer of opera seria for the Mannheim court, but his claim to immortality rests primarily on this solitary German opera from 1777. The score grabs your attention from the start: Holzbauer abandons the usual Italianate succession of da capo arias alternating with secco recitative, for arias in a variety of forms, linked by richly orchestrated accompanied recitatives.

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Holzbauer was held in very high repute by his contemporaries: Mozart commented on the extraordinary fire he perceived in Holzbauer’s music. That fire is certainly apparent in the final act, a series of shapely arias and ensembles that leads to a tragic finale in which the titular Günther, a medieval warrior prince involved in the Holy Roman succession, dies of a rival’s poison. His death is greeted by an almost choked chorus of lamentation that ends the drama on a note of extreme gravity somewhat modernist in its curtness.

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Performed by the Ensemble La Stagione under the baton of Michael Schneider, this performance is noteworthy for its spirit, and for the commitment of its cast. Barrymore Laurence Scherer