Thursday, August 20, 2015

Heinichen Masses Show Italian Influences

This release features the final two surviving masses of Johann David Heinichen, written in 1728 the year of his death. Heinichen spent several years Venice learning the Italian style, and it shows. When he returned to Germany in the employ of the Crown Prince of Saxony, he wrote Italianate operas and other large-scale choral works.

The two masses on this release are full-blown "number masses." Each section's text, such as the Credo or Gloria, is broken down into smaller phrases, and each phrase set to its own piece of music.

The Italian influence is quite strong -- to my ears these masses resembled those of Alessandro Scarlatti. Like Scarlatti, the dramatic power of the music owes much to the operatic conventions of the day. Heinichen's melodies are wonderfully lyrical and expressive. But Heinichen's German background is present, too. While the solo sections are sinuously fluid, the choral sections feature rigorously constructed counterpoint that looks ahead to Bach.

Hans-Cristoph Rademann leads his forces with a sure hand; the Dresdener Barockorchester performs with a restrained energy that seems appropriate for works intended for worship services. The Dresdner Kammerchor has a clean ensemble sound, which made it easy to follow the polyphony.

If you like the sacred works of Scarlatti, Handel, or Telemann, then there's a lot hear that you should enjoy as well. I did.

Johann David Heinichen: Messen 
Missa No. 11 in D major; Missa No. 12 in D major 
Dresdner Kammerchor; Dresdner Barockorchester; Hans-Christoph Rademann, conductor 
Carus 83.272

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