Holzbauer: Günther von Schwarzburg

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COMPOSERS: Holzbauer
WORKS: Günther von Schwarzburg
PERFORMER: Robert Wörle, Michael Schopper, Claron McFadden, Clarry Bartha, Christoph Prégardien; Ensemble La Stagione/ Michael Schneider
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.


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.


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