Johann Georg Reutter (1708-1772) lived and worked at a time when the support and practice of music composition and performance had fully blossomed at the Imperial Court in Vienna, during and just following the reign of the music-loving Emperor Charles VI. The court was richly endowed with many fine singers and instrumentalists. At the time when Reutter was appointed court composer, he had 17 singers, an organist, 12 string players and an assistant at his disposal.
Although little known, Reutter is one of the most prolific composers that Austria has ever produced. During his lifetime he was best known for his sacred music, which included about 80 masses, 126 motets, 6 requiems, 53 hymns and 151 psalm settings. However, all of the music on this Accent CD is drawn from his secular compositions, made up of predominantly operatic arias and sinfonias.
I found Reutter’s music, especially in the more somber movements, to be exquisite. In the darkly beautiful Pizzicato for solo violin and continuo, the mournful violin melody is suspended over a cold, pulsating, and rather indifferent sounding accompaniment of bowed and plucked strings. Occasionally there is a brief harmonic shift from the predominantly minor to a hopeful major key, but it does not last long before sighing and returning to its sorrowful tone. This four minute piece is a minor masterwork.
Some of his music is quite unlike anything I’ve heard before. One reason for this, and what I think is one of the music’s most irresistible charms, is the occasional use of the theorbo (or archlute) and a hammered dulcimer (or salterio) in the role of basso continuo in the instrumental pieces, or to accompany the solo vocal numbers. For example, the aria Dura legge begins with a traditional sounding continuo of cello and harpsichord. Then after the opening stanza the theorbo, which is then joined by the hammered dulcimer, play together in imitation of the vocal line, and the sound is absolutely magical!
I have not given any credit to the performers yet. Nuovo Aspetto perform this music with anywhere from three to about a dozen musicians. The string band performs on period instruments in a very pleasant style – without vibrato, subtly nuanced and with long tones that are allowed to “bloom.” It’s all very beautiful. Special mention must be made of mezzo-soprano Olivia Vermeulen, whose light and crystal clear voice can shine like polished silver.
Hats off to Accent for bringing this wonderful music to us. Now, how about some of Johann Reutter’s sacred music?
Johann Georg Reutter (1708-1772) worked under the Emperor Charles VI and Maria Theresa as a court composer in Vienna at the time of the greatest territorial expansion of the Habsburg Empire, and in an era when the music life of the court was at a high point. At an early age he gained an excellent reputation as the creator of oratorios and works of music drama, and, through the accumulation of numerous offices at court and at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, he held at the end of his life a position of power like no other composer before him.
With this CD the mezzo-soprano Olivia Vermeulen and the Ensemble Nuovo Aspetto present a fascinating overview of the work of this extraordinarily prolifi c composer, whose oeuvre has hardly appeared on disc until now. Olivia Vermeulen’s voice has a warm and intimate timbre. The instrumental accompaniment of the arias on this recording gets its characteristic silvery tone through the psaltery – the extremely virtuoso “dulcimer” was held in particularly high regard at the Viennese court in Reutter’s time. In the recorded instrumental works Reutter displays a colorful and virtuoso relationship with the orchestra – not without reason Reutter exerted considerable influence on the young Haydn (whom he had brought to Vienna as a boy singer) and on W. A. Mozart.
Composer: Johann Georg Reutter
Johann Adam Joseph Karl Georg Reutter (the Younger) (6 April 1708 – 11 March 1772) was an Austrian composer. According to Wyn Jones, in his prime he was “the single most influential musician in Vienna”. … read more
Mezzo Soprano: Olivia Vermeulen
Dutch born Mezzo Soprano Olivia Vermeulen studied with Mechtild Böhme in Detmold, Germany and under the tutelage of Julie Kaufmann in Berlin. She received additional instruction from Wolfram Rieger and Axel Bauni and … read more
Performers: Ensemble Nuovo Aspetto