Bach, Berlioz, Verdi, Mahler: Mute Sighs, Silent Laments / Saxon Staatskapelle Dresden
The musicians of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden were committed to their tradition of staging an annual commemorative concert even under these difficult circumstances and decided to organize a Memento Mori to mark this date that is inscribed in the annals of city history. The program comprised a small ensemble conducted by an expert for Baroque music and two ideally suited voices for the format. The concert was recorded for the Deutschlandfunk Kultur station and broadcast as a message of peace in the world. There were fewer than ten people in the auditorium of the Semperoper, all socially distanced and listening raptly to this unique event. Ultimately this was the first sign of life, the first musical greeting from the orchestra in a concert not open to the public after months of inactivity due to the pandemic. When, barely a year ago, Arnold Schoenberg’s “Gurre-Lieder” (featuring more than 300 performers on stage to a full house!) were performed and produced for album shortly afterwards (Edition Staatskapelle Vol. 50, PH 20052), no one would have predicted that this sonorous performance would be followed by a long phase of silence. May the present recording serve as testimony in the form of a contemporary sign of a cultural reawakening.
With this latest release entitled Stumme Seufzer, stille Klagen (Mute Sighs, Silent Laments) the Edition Staatskapelle Dresden series has reached volume 51. Contained here is a pair of J.S. Bach’s greatest church cantatas from the 2021 anniversary concert held in memory of the destruction of Dresden in 1945. The themes of chosen cantatas are death and hope of salvation seen from the standpoint of their being a gateway to everlasting life.
The city of Dresden was destroyed by three days of Allied bombing raids, in February 1945. It is now an annual tradition for the Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden to mark the anniversary date with a commemorative concert with no interval and or applause during the performance or at the conclusion. For the 2021 memorial concert, the Staatskapelle Dresden was keen to maintain the tradition and went ahead while observing coronavirus regulations – specifically, without a public audience and players socially distanced players on stage.
Dorothee Mields sings Bach’s original 1714 version of Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut a solo cantata for soprano with obbligato parts for oboe and viola. As the cantata begins with a recitative and aria, Herreweghe has chosen to start the score with the Sinfonia from the church cantata Weinen, klagen, sorgen, zagen (Weeping, lamenting, sorrow, sighing) BWV 12. Such an exquisite lament, the aria Stumme Seufzer, stille Klagen (Mute Sighs, Silent Laments) is sung sublimely by Mields, the overall effect heightened by the accompanying oboe part played by Rafael Sousa. In the following short chorale: Ich, dein betrübtes Kind (I, your troubled child) one senses that Mields is living the words of the penitent sinner while the viola part played by Sebastian Herberg is very much her equal.
Recorded in the outstanding acoustic of Semperoper, the sound has clarity and first-class balance. The second ‘bonus’ CD contains extracts from three huge works for chorus and orchestra appropriate to the theme of death and hope of salvation by Verdi, Berlioz and Mahler, all recorded and previously released for the Edition Staatskapelle Dresden series on Profil. Included on the ‘bonus’ CD are the interviews that Stefan Lang held in German with Philippe Herreweghe and with violist Andreas Schreiber.
Verdi completed his Messa da Requiem in 1874...[the] three chosen extracts, the sections: Requiem, Dies irae and Tuba mirum are from the recording conducted by Christian Thielemann at the Memorial Concert held on 13th February 2014 in the Semperoper, Dresden.
Berlioz wrote his Grande Messe des Morts a massive work using a huge orchestra and choral forces, in 1837...[the] recording here is the Dies irae by Sir Colin Davis, conducting the Memorial Concert given on the 13th February 1994 at the Kreuzkirche, Dresden.
The chosen extract [from Mahler's Symphony no. 2 "Resurrection" [is] the Finale...part of the recording conducted by Bernard Haitink at the Memorial Concert on the 13th February 1995 in the Semperoper.
A valuable feature of this Edition Staatskapelle Dresden series, a bilingual edition in German and English, is the scrupulously produced booklets, produced to a high standard[.] These are exemplary performances. From first to last note, I am totally engaged by Herreweghe’s rewarding accounts of two of J.S. Bach’s greatest church cantatas.
--MusicWeb International (Michael Cookson)
Release Date: January 07, 2022
Catalog Number: PH21024
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble: Staatskapelle Dresden
Performer: Keith Ikaia-Purdy