Ars Antiqua Austria
This renowned ensemble was founded in Linz in 1995 by Gunar Letzbor and Michael Oman with a core group of eight musicians dedicated to the task of authentically interpreting Austrian music of the Baroque era. To this end, the group performed on original instruments of the period and devoted much energy to researching and uncovering works that had been neglected until being performed by the group. The ensemble takes account of the wide diversity of cultures that have influenced and contributed to Austrian music during the centuries of the Baroque style when the physical and political boundaries of the country were more extensive. The ensemble infuses its performances with "the joie de vivre of the South, the Slav melancholy, French formality, Spanish pomp, and the Alpine character of the German-speaking regions" (Letzbor), typical constituents of the court, and folk and dance music of that time in Austria. The Ars Antiqua Austria has toured Austria, France, Germany, Slovakia, and the Ukraine, played several festivals of Baroque music, and toured the United States in 2001. The group won a Cannes Classical Award in 2002 for its recording of Viviani's Capricci armonici and continued to release albums, including Antonio Bertali: Promithia Suavissima, Parte Seconda (2005), and Benedikt Anton Aufschnaiter: Dulcia Fidium Harmonia (2009).
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Classical - Released June 18, 2009 | Arcana
Not too long ago, musicologists treated the seventeenth century as a period where instrumental music barely existed, as though there wasn't anything really noteworthy in terms of instrumental music before Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi apart from early English keyboard music. The revival of interest in Heinrich von Biber beginning in the 1960s brought about a revolution in that regard, and by the opening of the twenty first century the names of figures such as Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Giovanni Felice Sances, and Johann Kasper Kerll are reasonably familiar ones to those who follow music of the early Baroque. Considerably less well known is that of Antonio Bertali, a musician in the Viennese royal chapel from the 1620s and, from 1649 until his death in 1669, served as kapellmeister in the Viennese court. In Arcana's Antonio Bertali: Prothima Suavissima Parte Seconda, Gunar Letzbor leads the Ars Antiqua Austria -- a group that has notably distinguished itself through recordings such as the superb Challenge Classics issue of Viennese lute concertos by Von Radolt -- though the posthumous 1672 print indicated in the title in its entirety. There is some measure of controversy as to who composed the 12 sonatas in this volume; in 1671, composer Samuel Capricornus printed a collection entitled Continuation der neuen wohl angestimten Taffelmusic, which duplicates six of these sonatas exactly, raising the issue of whether Capricornus -- a student and follower of Bertali -- "borrowed" these six sonatas from his then-departed master for his own publication or that the publisher might have used the Capricornus works to fill out a more commercially viable Bertali print. However, in listening one notes absolute unanimity of style between all 12 sonatas, and it is a solidly persuasive, elegant style as well. Compared to Biber, Bertali is not nearly as weird or experimental, but there are exploratory harmonic devices in use and plenty of the elements of surprise present for those already attuned to the early Baroque. Letzbor and the Ars Antiqua Austria make an excellent case for this mega-obscure music; some of the sonatas have appeared before on a Carus Verlag disc by the Freiburger Barockorchester Consort, but only there. The interpretations are smooth, yet lively, and fall easily on the ear without compromising Bertali's more challenging concepts, and Arcana's recording is pleasantly three-dimensional and present. © TiVo