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Schmelzer: Le memorie dolorose

SCHMELZER: Le Memorie Dolorose
Tenet Vocal Artists; Acronym
Olde Focus 914                                                                 74 minutes


"Recorded here for the first time is Johann Heinrich Schmelzer’s oratorio Le Memorie Dolorose on a text by Nicolo Minato. It was originally performed in Vienna on Good Friday of 1678 before the effigy of Christ’s tomb in
the Hofburgkapelle. The drama takes place in the moments immediately following Christ’s burial. There is nothing particularly new in the drama itself. In fact the performance of an Easter play involving Angels, the Virgin Mary, Apostles, the three Maries (Magdalene, Cleopas, and Salome), and Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea—11 parts in all—goes back to the rich medieval history of the Passion play. The tradition continued well into the
modern era. What is new is the organization of the drama into ten pairs of meditations, juxtaposing mourning with joyful reminiscences about Jesus’ life. In addition, Acronym inserts three sonatas by Schmelzer at logical breaks
between scenes.


"The program begins with a five-part Sonata in A minor. A four-part Sonata in A minor precedes the scene involving the three Maries, and a five-part Sonata in G minor comes before the scene of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.


"The drama unfolds in a series of dialogs between characters, mostly in recitative over basso continuo. Arias are simple, strophic pieces with instrumental ritornellos between stanzas. The aria ‘More Christo’ comes at an
especially poignant moment at the end of the scene involving the three Maries (Kate Maroney, Elizabeth Baber Weaver, and Dianna Grabowski). In recitative the Virgin Mary (Jolle Greenleaf) sings ‘Udite, Udite un Altra’ as she
happily remembers how the people of Jerusalem cheered as Jesus entered the city. She recalls how they cut down tree boughs as a sign of their rejoicing; but joy turned to savagery when only a few days later they cut the tree trunks to make a cross. The aria that follows is gentle, full of pathos, sung over the descending tetrachord in the accompanying violin and continuo parts. The emotion continues, ineffably, into the ritornellos.


"The end of the final scene, beginning with ‘Christo More’ makes a powerful statement. Here a trio consisting of Mary Magdalene, Maria Salome, and the Virgin Mary balance
against an ensemble of Apostles (Andrew Fuchs, Brian Giebler, and Jesse Blumberg). The trio of women acts as a refrain between Mary Magdalene’s exclamations of sorrow. There is a better feminist argument to be made here than the ungainly one that follows, but here goes. Predictably, while the women give voice to the emotion of grief, the apostles declaim the theological significance of the scriptural events. It pits the thundering (low-range) voice
of the Petrine church against the emotional (high-range) voice of the Magdalene church. The oratorio concludes with the entire ensemble in a final pietistic statement—essentially, if Jesus did this for me, whatever can I do for
him? 'In eterno piangero' (I shall weep eternally).


"The performance is absolutely gorgeous. The singers’ voices are full of expression, and ornamentation is spot on. The instrumentalists play with complete understanding of the performance practice. Texts and notes are in

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Loewen, American Record Guide
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