Superb and surprising selection of music from the Hapsburg empire
Last night’s presentation by Angus Menzies was of music composed for several of the emperors of the Habsburg court from the middle of 16th to the middle of the 17th centuries. This was pre-Haydn and Mozart of course and most of the music played was by composers who, for the most part have been forgotten – undeservedly so.
Each would have his own favourites of course but those who stood out were Antonio Bertali; Johann Schmelzer; Heinrich Biber and Johann Fux. We also heard a piece composed by Leopold I entitled Il lutto dell universe which was ‘not without talent’ as one might say. The pieces played were mostly composed for weddings and coronations and hence had a magisterial quality. Others were from operas. Schmelzer’s Die Fechstchule was played alongside mass horse displays as monarchs from that era often used equestrian events to impress and show off their country. Indeed, portraits from that era often feature monarchs astride a horse as a symbol of power. Little is known of him but he was a favourite of Leopold I and became a Kapellmeister in Vienna.
Another composer to impress was Jan Zelenka and we heard Melodrama de Sancto Wenceslao and also Johann Reutter whose aria Venga l’eta was played from La Magnamitada Alessandro. Zelenka was ranked along side Telemann and Handel in his day but is now mostly forgotten.
A worthwhile evening with many surprises and providing a window into the music of this era in history.