Anton Schweitzer sacred music resurrected

So who was Anton Schweitzer? Born in 1735, he was a child prodigy who enjoyed the patronage of the Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The duke paid for his education and made him Kapellmeister of his court orchestra.

When the orchestra was disbanded, Schweitzer hit the road with a theatrical troupe. Most of his surviving compositions are operas, written for the troupe. And that’s the key word — surviving.

Much of Schweitzer’s music has been lost over time. This album, for example, represents almost the whole of his surviving sacred music. And that’s a pity — because it’s really good.

Schweiter primarily wrote comic Singspiel, and the best characteristics of that genre are present here. Die Auferstehung Christi (The Resurrection of Christ) is a 1776 oratorio for three soloists, chorus, and orchestra. The arias are quite tuneful and occasionally catchy. The textures are light and transparent, both in the chorus and the orchestra.

Schweitzer knows how to write for the human voice. The solos are well-crafted, with an emphasis on melodic beauty The choruses have none of the complex polyphony of Bach. But with Schweitzer, that was never the point — it was the clarity of the text. And that he achieves with mostly chordal four-part harmonies.

The Thüringer Bach Collegium directed by Gernot Süssmuth performs to their usual high standards. I found Schweitzer’s music quite appealing. It looks ahead to the time of Mozart and Haydn. And Schweitzer really knows how to write a melody.

Now I’m curious to hear his operas.

Anton Schweitzer: Die Auferstehung Christi
Missa Brevis Cantata
Mirella Hagen, soprano; Henriette Godde, alto; Stephan Scherpe, tenor; Tobias Berndt, bass
Thüringer Bach Collegium; Gernot Süssmuth, conductor
Capriccio C5425
2 CD set

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