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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Der Tod Abels
PERFORMER: Harry van der Kamp, Ingrid Schmithüsen, Stephan Schreckenberger, Hans Jörg Mammel, Carmen Schüller, Veronika WinterRheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
A few facts, since nowadays he is a fairly obscure figure. Johann Heinrich Rolle was born in Magdeburg in 1716, studied in Leipzig from the mid-1730s, was a violinist in Frederick the Great’s court orchestra in Berlin from 1741, served as organist back in Magdeburg in 1747, and succeeded his father in 1751 as Magdeburg’s music director. His most celebrated pieces are his oratorios which he presented at the public concert series he had introduced in Magdeburg in the 1760s. Der Tod Abels (The Death of Abel) – to a text by Samuel Patzke which converts the Biblical story of Abel’s murder by his brother Cain into a poetic, contemporary drama – dates from 1769. Its success spread Rolle’s fame throughout Germany and beyond. The writing shows resonances of JS Bach, but also bears marks of the latest aesthetic developments found in the music of CPE Bach. The role of the chorus is important, though the choral music is rather straightforward.


This is the work’s first commercially available recording. The performance – a live one – is intimate, neat, but too careful; the singing and playing, under Hermann Max’s direction, not overly inspired. No English translation of the libretto is provided. But the disc provides an intriguing look at one of music’s byways and should not be dismissed out of hand by those with a special interest in the period. Stephen Pettitt