Daniel Speer: Kriegsgeschichten

Markus Miesenberger, Ars Antiqua Austria, Gunar Letzbor
Pan Classics PC 10317

This is the first of two planned discs to explore Speer’s 1688 “Musicalisch-Türkischcher Eulen-Spiegel”, a musical settings of stories from a semi-autobiographical novel. In creating two concert programmes, Gunar Letzbor has chosen to combine war stories with sonatas for brass, and love stories with sonatas for strings (to appear in 2017). So there are various elements to the programme: Lompyn (the hero of the tale) sings songs, sandwiched between two “ballets” (as in dance movements, not the art form) of different national styles (cossacks, Poles, Muscovites, Greeks, Hungarians, Wallachians); between each set we have the brass sonatas (essentially rather simple, given the limited tonal capabilities of the instruments – 2 trumpets and 3 trombones, here with continuo), the sequence rounded off with three movements for strings. The cartoon illustrations in the booklet suggest that the project was aimed at a younger audience, and the singer’s approach to the texts would tend to support this impression, since at times he is virtually talking the words; if you are not a German speaker, it will be irrelevant anyway, since – as well as omitting the brass players’ names (at least, as far as I can see!), the booklet has no translation of the texts). If the CD was produced purely to be sold at performances (and why should it not? musicians need to make a living from their hard work), I wonder that the record company felt it should do on international release, especially with only minimal attention to what foreign audiences might make of such a peculiarity.

Brian Clark

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