Johann Adolf Hasse is a sufferer from historical bad luck. For a European continental audience of the late 1750s, when the music on this album was composed, he might well have been considered the greatest living composer, and the aria "Mea tormenta, properate! (My torments, hurry to me!, track 4) shows why: it's a splendidly controlled, beautifully structured aria that nevertheless allows a singer room to breathe and show off. As much as the better-known Gluck, he defined what writing for the voice in the 18th century was about. Yet he wrote in genres that seem less appealing to modern audiences, most prominently the clunkily conventional opera seria. Sanctus Petrus et Sancta Maria Magdalena (Saint Peter and Saint Mary Magdalene) is a good example. It's a sort of oratorio, written like the choral works of Vivaldi for an ospedale or girls' orphanage and music school, recounting the Passion story through the eyes of the two above-named characters plus three less prominent biblical personages: Mary, mother of James, Salome, and Joseph of Arimathea. They lament Jesus' death in full-blown operatic arias and reflect on its meaning in slower pieces. The general listener may find this intriguing just because it's so unusual to hear this stagey emotional language issuing forth from the characters' mouths in Latin, and the singers here, especially American mezzo Vivica Genaux, are terrific in music that remains as difficult now as the day it was composed. The playing of the Orchestra of the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele has a weirdly choppy quality, but the engineering is fine, and it's worth hearing this example of Hasse's sacred music, little of which has been recorded. The booklet notes are in German and English, the oratorio text in Latin and German.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sanctus Petrus et Sancta Maria Magdalena|