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Harmonische Freude features chamber music by Johann Sebastian Bach and his extended circle, played on historical instruments by Austral Harmony, an ensemble of Australian musicians who specialise in music of the 18th century. The group fosters a particular interest in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, and presents innovatively designed programmes promoting less familiar repertoire.
Using the sustained tone of a small pipe organ alongside baroque oboe and trumpet, the musicians create an impression of intimacy and a pleasing variety of sonority. Inspiration comes from Georg Friedrich Kauffmann’s concept of having an oboist imitate an organ stop by playing from the organ loft. Bach employed Lutheran chorales exhaustively throughout his choral and organ works; his pupils Krebs and Homilius composed chorale adaptations which included oboe and trumpet in a solo role. Four different trumpets and an oboe d’amore lend expressivity to the various hymn tunes which are a focal point of the disc. The musical idiom of other associates and pupils of Bach reflects the progressive and predominantly melodic galant style which ushered in the musical ideals of the Classical era.
Artists: Jane Downer (baroque oboe), Simon Desbrusais (natural trumpet), Peter Hagen (chamber Organ).
|Instrumentation||Baroque Oboe, Baroque Trumpet and Chamber Organ|
This disc brings together an unlikely but convincing combination of instruments in a trio consisting of the organ, baroque oboe and baroque trumpet. The reasoning that Austral Harmony gives for this is rather interesting. A contemporary of Bach’s named Georg Friedrich Kauffmann apparently suggested in some of his chorale preludes that an oboe or “other agreeable instrument” (trumpet, in this case) could play alongside the organ so as to give the impression that an organ stop was being used. I rather like his amiably cheerful descriptions of his own pieces given in the liner notes: “the oboes have been used in such a way here, which should be announced as good news”.
Good news indeed for fans of Baroque wind and brass! What you get is a recital focusing on the oboe and organ (with appearances from trumpeter Simon Desbruslais on a respectable six tracks) with music from JS Bach and his contemporaries. There’s actually significantly more by the “other” composers than there is by Bach, but they’re in a similar style, so if you like Bach, you’ll like the other composers here, too. I particularly enjoyed the Sonata o Oboe Solo col Basso by the magnificently named Gottfried August Homilius, where Jane Downer’s oboe is shown off best. There are some slight tuning problems in a few tracks from both Downer and Desbruslais, but this is easily forgivable in a fine recital of rarely-played music for an unusual combination, something which I wholeheartedly support.
- See more at: http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/content/harmonische-freude-austral-harmony#sthash.PFkiHqyI.dpuf
Austral Harmony – a trio of two Australians and a Brit – invite listeners to experience a carefully imagined, rather enchanting soundscape of mid-18th-century Lutheran Leipzig. Two themes inform this recording: the joyfulness of the chorale texts, and the genius and influence of JS Bach. We’re treated to four settings of Jesu, meine Freude by Bach and one of his star pupils, Johann Ludwig Krebs, as well as a newly discovered Sonata for oboe and continuo by another pupil, Gottfried August Homilius. Homilius’s pupil Christian Gotthilf Tag makes a cameo appearance with a chorale prelude for oboe and organ, and Georg Friedrich Kauffmann, Bach’s competitor for the Leipzig Kapellmeister post, enjoys the last word.
Why then is the recording ‘carefully imagined’? Many of the tracks were arranged by Peter Hagen, who took his cues from period practices, substituting an oboe in the top line of the organ part in a number of works originally either for organ alone (the Bach organ trio) or with one obbligato instrument (that in the chorale preludes took the tune), which here is allocated to a trumpet. Jane Downer playing in turn two oboes and Simon Desbruslais four trumpets further enrich the soundscape.
Kauffmann was the first to suggest substituting an oboe on the top line in his organ preludes (Harmonische Seelenlust, 1733 36); Krebs specifically composed for organ and one obbligato instrument (oboe, trumpet or trombone). By involving both oboe and trumpet in works originally for two instruments, Austral Harmony have in effect created a new, niche chamber repertoire, an extremely attractive one at that. Some instruments work better together than others and the oboe occasionally overpowers the organ. Nevertheless, beautifully, joyously performed, this is a thought-provoking disc I look forward to revisiting and sharing with friends.
Julie Anne Sadie
- See more at: https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/harmonische-freude