Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

John Terauds
Toronto Star, April 2009

J.S. Bach’s predecessor at Leipzig’s Thomasschule was Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688–1758), who supplies this rich setting of the melodramatic Brockes Passion. Complementing it on the disc is an engaging orchestral suite. An all-Hungarian cast of singers and period musicians does an excellent job.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Johann Fasch was Bach’s predecessor at the Leipzig Thomasschule and a considerable composer in his own right. In past editions we have praised recordings of his Trumpet Concerto (by both André and by Marsalis) and a rewarding collection of his miscellaneous concertos from La Stravaganza, Cöln (CPO 777 015-2), but his Passio Jesu Christi is a real discovery—a truly remarkable work, in many ways anticipating Bach. The text is a substantially shortened version of the Gospel story as told by the poet Barthold Brockes, frowned on by the Church authorities for being too theatrical and sentimental. However, in Fasch’s setting it is neither, but is musically very rewarding, particularly when as beautifully sung and played as it is here. The soprano Mária Zádori has a lovely voice and her singing of the aria, Meine Laster sind die Stricke, is a glorious example of her memorable contribution, while the tenor Evangelist, Zoltán Megyesi, sings equally beautifully throughout, notably in his closing Ihr Augen weinet Blut. The scoring includes a pair of oboes, and there is a flute obbligato in the tenor aria, Brich, mein Herz, in order to balance with the pizzicato strings. Throughout the work Fasch intersperses eight Lutheran chorales, beautifully sung by the Budapest Schola Cantorum. Before the choral work, the lively Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra show their excellence in a polished and spirited performance of the sprightly Suite in D minor for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo. The recording is in the demonstration class and this is a disc worth seeking out.

Patrick Rucker
Fanfare, August 2008

Since the turn of the 20th century, when musicologist Hugo Riemann drew attention to the long-neglected work of Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758), the critical estimate of this Weimar­-born composer has steadily grown. His prolific and original œuvre illustrates the stylistic evolution from the high Baroque to the classicism of Haydn and Mozart. More than 60 extant concertos attest to Fasch's imaginative and resourceful instrumentation, especially remarkable in his writing for winds. Having languished so long in the shadow of Bach, Fasch now can be counted among Bach's more interesting German contemporaries.

This fascinating new Naxos release pairs an orchestral suite or Ouverture with what may be the first recording of Fasch's Passion setting (Mich von Stricke meiner Sunden) to a text by Brockes. They are presented in compelling and heartfelt performances by Hungarian ensembles and soloists under the direction of the conductor and musicologist Mary Terey-Smith. The sound of the Capella Savaria (an original-instruments ensemble established in 1981 in Szombathely, western Hungary) is unusually rich.

Less rigorously polyphonic than Bach's Passions, the power of Fasch's setting is achieved with smaller gestures and lighter textures. The beautifully blended and translucent sound of the Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis is gracefully supported throughout by Capella Savaria. . .Terey-Smith's fine ear for detail is everywhere evident, though never limiting the fluent pace and momentum of these beautiful scores.

This recording was made in Szombathely in October 2006. Balances are acute and the presence rich. Nigel Springthorpe provided the informative notes. Recommended.

David Vickers
Gramophone, April 2008

The performance is very satisfying. There are especially good contributions from the instrumentalists and soprano Maria Zadori. …on the whole, this is an assured performance of an intriguing work. © 2008 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, March 2008

The Suite which opens this recording is one of a large number of such pieces which both Fasch and Telemann produced: the Telemann Suites and, arguably, those by Fasch, influenced Bach’s four Orchestra Suites. (Bach transcribed some of Fasch’s Suites for his own collegium musicum in the 1730s.) This work not be quite in the same league as Bach and Telemann—it’s best in this respect to try to forget that he was their contemporary—but it is an attractive work, often looking forward to the classical style, and it receives a stylish and lively performance here.

The opening Ouverture is given plenty of weight, but never allowed to sound ponderous. The tempi for the two Aria movements are also well chosen—the largo fifth movement never allowed to drag—and the dance movements are suitably sprightly. Though the basic model for the Suite is French, there is some Italian-style virtuosic violin writing in the Finale, well played here (presumably) by Zsolt Kalló, first violin and artistic director. Just don’t expect the kind of pyrotechnics that we’ve had recently in baroque music from Italian violinists and conductors. The recording is good…The Fasch Passion exists in two forms; it has been edited for this recording by the conductor, the French musical scholar Mary Térey-Smith, from a manuscript in the Leipzig Stadtbibliothek. The Brockes-Passion is often criticised for its overt sentimentality but Fasch’s cut-down 48-minute version is less open to that criticism…The agile performance of Fasch’s opening chorale sets the tone for a brisk performance. Some may find Térey-Smith’s tempi a little too brisk, but they seem just about right to me. She avoids all accusations of over-sentimentality and there is never any sense that she takes things too fast for the singers, either the chorus or the soloists.

The Schola Cantorum sing well...Péter Cser as Jesus, an attractive light-voiced bass, is also able to keep sentiment and objectivity in balance in Mein Vater, schau, wie ich mich quäle (“My father, see how I am tormented”, tr.14)…With good recording throughout and at Naxos’s budget price, this CD of an otherwise unrecorded work is self-recommending.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2008

At the risk of being branded a musical heretic, the more I hear of Johann Friedrich Fasch, the more I prefer him to Johann Sebastian Bach, the two composers almost exactly contemporary to each other. Though his early years were difficult following his father’s death at the age of 12, he showed such promise as a composer after his studies with Kuhnau, he was encouraged to travel to experience at first hand the music throughout Germany. Positions as a provincial Kappelmeister was followed by major offers including the position at Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, but preferred the financial situation in Zerbst where he had a freedom of opportunities to compose and many fine musicians to work with. He arrived there in 1721, after a brief period in Prague, and was to spend the remainder of his life happily working there. He did, however, have a brief sabbatical in Dresden where he realised there was very differing standards of musicianship existing in the city. The Overture in D which opens this disc was probably as a result of that experience, and may well have been a commission from the court in Dresden. In six movements it is, to all intents, an early symphony, and while at times the music has a folk-like simplicity, it is an extremely likeable piece, with a wonderful virtuoso moment for bassoon. It is here performed by the Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra, their playing as good as any I have heard from a period instrument ensemble. The Passio Jesu Christi is largely reliant on a libretto by Barthold Brockes based on text from St. John, several other composers including Handel and Telemann also using the words. Fasch did tamper with them to fit his purpose, and supplied a score rich with melodic invention. It has been handed down in two differing orchestrations, and it may well be that neither is by Fasch. So a few more changes made for this recording cannot be frowned upon. It was said by Fasch that he premiered it in his first year in charge at Zerbst, though there is speculation that it was composed much earlier. In style and content it comes much closer to Handel than Bach, the composer always crediting Telemann as his musical inspiration. Maria Zadori is rather stretched at the top end of her soprano arias, but I am much taken by the gentle lyricism of the Hungarian tenor, Zoltan Megyesi, with Peter Cser a warm voiced Jesus. Enthusiastic participation from the Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis, the orchestra performing its undemanding role in good style. The Hungarian-born conductor, Mary Terey-Smith, now better known in her adopted Canada, is our unhurried guide through the music, Naxos’s Hungarian recording team providing their usual high class sound.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group