WORKS: Hymnus auf die Allmacht, Weissheit und Güte Gottes; Die Jahreszeiten; Irdisches Vergnügen in Gott (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Purcell Singers/Mark Ford; Robert Howarth (organ), Gareth Deats (cello), Fred Jacobs (theorbo)
CATALOGUE NO: GMCD 7255
To make any extravagant claims for the quality of the music on this disc would be rash – it’s frankly not the sort of material that will ever elicit epoch-making performances – but it represents a fascinating byway of the late Baroque/early Classical repertoire. Three Zürich-based composers are represented: Johann Caspar Bachofen, Hans-Jakob Ott and Johannes Schmidlin. The pieces are recorded in reverse chronological order, ending with 11 of the 300-or-so tiny settings that Bachofen made around 1740 of texts from Barthold Brockes’s collection Irdisches Vergnügen in Gott. Charming, well-crafted miniatures, no more. By contrast, Ott’s Die Jahreszeiten, published in 1747, is a cantata of some ambition and substance, and it contains some impressively vivid ideas. It sets Brockes’s translation of Scottish writer James Thompson’s ‘Hymn to the Seasons’ – the same work, and translation, that inspired Haydn’s last, great oratorio. And Schmidlin’s Hymnus auf die Allmacht, Weissheit und Güte Gottes, published in 1761 and setting an anonymous text based on Brockes’s work, shows a beguiling melodic gift.
All this the sopranos and basses – no tenors or altos are demanded – of the young London-based Purcell Singers, together with a first-rate continuo team, perform with excellent discipline and well-blended ensemble under the guiding spirit of conductor Mark Ford. Stephen Pettitt