Sturm und Drang, Vol. 1
Haydn: La Canterina, Hob. XXVIII – Non v’è chi mi aiuta; Symphony No. 49 in F minor, Hob I; Gluck: Don Juan, Wq. 52 – Larghetto; Jommelli: Fetonte – Ombre che tacite qui sede; F Beck: Sinfonia in G minor; Traetta: Sofonisba
The Mozartists/Ian Page
Signum Classics SIGCD619 69.40 mins
Sturm und Drang, the byword for the 18th century musical excess that shook off, in wildly emotional, dramatic style, the more rational constraints of the Enlightenment, is the subject of this new seven-volume series from Ian Page and his Mozartists. It covers the gamut of the repertoire from its best-known tunes to the long-neglected.
The Mozartists begin with the work often regarded as the jumping-off point for Sturm und Drang in the musical world, the wind howling atmospherically through Gluck’s final scene to his ballet Don Juan. A pensive, stormy set-to in a crypt in which the eponymous villain is dragged into the chasm of hell by balletic furies, it is played with fantastic attack and vigour.
Soprano Chiara Skerath voices the various heroes and heroines, exploring the full emotional range of the lesser-known parts of this stormy repertoire, from the fearfulness of Fetone’s Act II aria in Jommelli’s experimental opera seria of the same name, to the deranged ‘urlo francese’s – essentially a free-style wail – of the hysterical Queen Sofonisba, found by her husband at the altar marrying another man, in Traetta’s boundary-expanding and excessively emotional contribution to the genre.
The Mozartists play this repertoire with a mix of urgent spirit and plumbed depths, the Beck Symphony in G minor full of gruff bass and aggressively darkening violins. Haydn rounds it off as ominously, yet thrillingly, as it began, with the tragic Adagioopening his Symphony No. 49 La Passione. A genuinely fascinating start to what will doubtless be an illuminating, if emotionally harrowing series.
Sarah Urwin Jones