Reutter: Portus Felicitatis

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ALBUM TITLE: Portus Felicitatis
WORKS: Motets by Reutter
PERFORMER: Monika Mauch (soprano); Stanislava Jirku (mezzo-soprano); Margit Ubellacker (dulcimer); La Gioia Armonica/Jürgen Banholzer


Johann Georg Reutter, born in Vienna in 1708, enjoyed a successful career in the Habsburg Court, rising to Kapellmeister from 1769 until his death in 1772. His reputation then waned: 19th century historians claimed he was ‘without spirit’, ‘of little artistic value’, representing a nadir between the peaks of Baroque and Classical eras. Judging from this wonderfully revelatory disc, nothing could be further from the truth. He was highly inventive, using conventions such as sequences to extend his music but colouring them with intriguing chromatic tweaks.

He proves a fine melodist, too, writing sympathetically for solo voices. The singers here – soprano Monika Mauch and mezzo-soprano Stanislava Jirk∞ – are beautifully matched, fresh-toned and virtually vibrato-less. One-to-a-part strings are similarly uncluttered.

But what particularly sets Reutter apart from his contemporaries are his unique tone-colours. He favoured a large dulcimer, the pantaleon, named after its inventor Pantaleon Hebenstreit (1668-1750), which was briefly in vogue in Vienna and France. The pantaleon’s mid-range pitch, accompanied by strings, is utterly enchanting. The addition of a lute in a soprano aria creates a unique sound which has haunted my memory for days.

Four arias, five motets and two instrumental movements are intimately recorded. Breathtakingly lovely – yet only a hint of treasures hidden still among Reutter’s 80-odd Masses, 50 stage works and over 500 chamber pieces. 


George Pratt