Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

Dur­ing the first two-thirds of the 18th cen­tury, no Ger­man mu­si­cal es­tab­lish­ment sur­passed that of Dres­den, seat of the Elec­tors of Sax­ony, who (among their nu­mer­ous ti­tles) were also the kings of Poland and Lithua­nia. Lead­ing com­posers else­where spoke long­ingly of Dres­den’s high per­for­mance stan­dards, en­vi­able work­ing con­di­tions, and gen­er­ous salaries. Even Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Bach, la­bor­ing 60 miles away in Leipzig, strove might­ily to ob­tain an hon­orary ap­point­ment from the Dres­den court, which he man­aged to do only af­ter three years of per­sis­tent pe­ti­tion­ing. Dres­den’s ret­i­cence was, in a way, un­der­stand­able: Bach was get­ting to be old-fash­ioned, while Dres­den com­posers were on the cut­ting edge of a new ro­coco style. The Dres­den Baroque Or­ches­tra, a crack­er­jack pe­riod-in­stru­ment group, has put to­gether a win­ning se­lec­tion of seven or­ches­tral pieces by as many com­posers, drawn from the court’s col­lec­tion of 1,800 mu­sic manuscripts of that time. The playlist in­cludes a vi­brant opera over­ture by court mu­sic direc­tor Jo­hann Adolf Hasse, a brood­ing sonata by court con­cert­mas­ter Jo­hann Ge­org Pisendel, an ebul­lient or­ches­tral suite by Jo­hann Friedrich Fasch (a close friend of Pisendel’s), and sin­fo­nias by the trendy Ital­ians An­to­nio Cal­dara (with rous­ing brass fan­fares), Giuseppe Bres­cianello, and Gio­vanni Bat­tista Sam­mar­tini. It’s a com­pelling pro­gram in toto, but the con­clud­ing num­ber eclipses all: Ge­orge Frid­eric Han­del’s spec­tac­u­lar “Over­ture to an Oc­ca­sional Or­a­to­rio,” its or­ches­tra­tion here ex­panded by Pisendel. — James M. Keller

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