Johann Joseph Fux: Arias for the Emperor. Operas and Oratorios for the Viennese Court. Maria Ladurner, Biber Consort. © note 1 music gmbh

CD Spotlight

Innermost Tenderness

GERALD FENECH listens to arias by Johann Joseph Fux

'Maria Ladurner is an inspired and impassioned advocate of Fux's music, and her supreme performances have a thrilling realism that brings out all the contrasting timbres of this fragile yet gravitas-filled music.'


If I were to ask you how often you have experienced any of the nineteen operas or twelve oratorios on stage or in concert written by Austrian composer Johann Joseph Fux (c1660-1741), I suppose the answer would probably be rarely, if ever. Although Fux is the only Austrian baroque composer who was capable of great music for the stage, these works are hardly known to today's audiences. The composer, music theorist and kapellmeister at the Viennese Imperial Court is primarily known for his church and instrumental music, while his stage-works still languish in the shadows. This present recording is therefore more than welcome, giving a somewhat deeper insight into Fux's stage-works.

What were opera and oratorio actually like at the Viennese Imperial Court in the first decades of the eighteenth century? From what we know, they occupied pride of place. A substantial number of outstanding composers, instrumentalists and singers had been gathered together with the common task of enhancing the splendour and glory of their patrons, Emperors Leopold I (1658-1705), Joseph I (1705-1711) and Charles VI (1711-1740).

Fux became Viennese Court Composer as early as 1698, was appointed Vice-Kapellmeister in 1712 and Court Kapellmeister in 1715, a position he held until his death in 1741. Active with him at the Court were such eminent names as Giovanni Bononcini, Attilio Ariosti and Antonio Caldara. Each of these composers was also a very fine instrumentalist, and this conglomeration of talent produced some instrumental music of astounding beauty which was wonderfully suited to the skills of the Viennese Court musicians – the Hofkapell.

Listen — Fux: Sinfonia (Giunone placata, 1725)
(track 1, 0:01-0:47) ℗ 2021 note 1 music gmbh :

This issue includes a total of nine arias for soprano, some with their accompanying recitatives, taken from operas and oratorios written between 1708 and 1728 - a time when music at the Viennese Imperial Court was at its absolute peak. Fux's music was to have a lasting influence on generations of musicians and composers, and its sparkle, ingenuity, sensitivity and colourfulness are still as fresh as when they were experienced during the composer's lifetime. Indeed, Fux was capable of creating the greatest and deepest of spiritual sounds describing one's innermost tenderness.

Listen — Fux: Il voler vincer Amore (Dafne in Lauro, 1714)
(track 3, 0:00-0:56) ℗ 2021 note 1 music gmbh :

In the soloist's own words: 'The intimacy with which Fux transforms human emotions into music, his ability to create works of the highest compositional level that nevertheless touch the soul - that is what enchants me'. Our star soprano Maria Ladurner continues: 'As a woman and a singer, I find it important to give a voice to my female colleagues of the time. They have so often been overshadowed by the "castrati", yet were important members of the musical life at Court, creating a sensation throughout Europe as celebrated stars'.

Listen — Fux: Io non potea soffrir (Giunone placata, 1725)
(track 4, 3:51-4:36) ℗ 2021 note 1 music gmbh :

The programme includes an opening 'Sinfonia' followed by nine arias. The first six build up to an emotional climax, followed by the Arcadian idyll of the last three. Also, the three sacred arias mingle perfectly with the mundane aspect of the other six, thus appeasing the enforced piety that dominated Viennese court life, despite all the blissful revelry.

Listen — Fux: Vedi, che il Redentor
(Il Fonte della Salute aperto dalla Grazia nel Calvario, 1716)
(track 7, 5:05-5:55) ℗ 2021 note 1 music gmbh :

Maria Ladurner is an inspired and impassioned advocate of Fux's music, and her supreme performances have a thrilling realism that brings out all the contrasting timbres of this fragile yet gravitas-filled music. A magnificent CD containing seven premiere recordings that offer a vital cross-section through some twenty years of Fux's career at the Imperial Court. Sonics and booklet notes are superb.

Copyright © 22 May 2021 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta








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