Kusser: Serenatas for Dublin

Kusser Serenatas for Dublin ed Samantha Owens

Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 210
Edited by Samantha Owens
xxi, four plates, 262pp.
ISBN 978-1-9872-0450-6

This is Samantha Owens’ latest contribution to the (long overdue!) rediscovery of Kusser’s music. It contains the three surviving serenatas (of 21!) that the composer wrote during his time in Ireland: “The Universal Applause of Mount Parnassus” (1711 for Queen Anne’s birthday), “An Idylle on the Peace” (1713 on the Utrecht settlement), and the rather oddly named “No! He’s not dead” (ca. 1707-14, again for Queen Anne). After a French overture, each is a sequence of recitatives, arias and choruses, many with colourful scorings displaying the versatility of the musical establishment in Dublin. The state pomp of the serenata on the Peace inspires the use of three trumpets, while the 1711 work calls for no fewer than nine solo sopranos. Many of the arias are built on dance forms, and Kusser reveals himself to be quite the tunesmith. He was also a self-borrower, here recycling arias from operas he had written in Germany. Two of the serenatas have recorded in full on Hungaroton, and portions of the other by the Irish Baroque Orchestra under Peter Whelan, both groups drawing out the charm of these neglected pieces. Hopefully the publication of this magnificent volume will inspire others to take up the challenge.

Brian Clark