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Peter Joseph von LINDPAINTNER (1791-1856)
Il Vespro Siciliano (Die Sizilianische Vesper)
Camerata Bach Choir Poznań
Virtuosi Brunensis/Federico Longo
rec. 2015, Bad Wildbad, Germany
NAXOS 8.660440-43 [4 CDs: 201:25]

To be frank, I had never heard of Peter Joseph von Lindpaintner before coming across this recording of Il Vespro Siciliano. If you have, congratulations! Otherwise, you are very welcome to join me in rediscovering the man whom Robert Schumann thought the most promising operatic composer of the 19th century. Mendelssohn believed Lindpaintner to be the best orchestral conductor in Germany and even used his influence to get Lindpaintner’s music performed at concerts at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.

Peter Josef von Lindpaintner was born the son of a tenor in Koblenz in Germany in 1791. After his music studies, he became court kapellmeister (conductor) in Stuttgart in 1819. During his time there, he brought Stuttgart’s musical life back to artistic excellence, making the orchestra one of the best in Germany. In recognition of his achievements he was presented with the Knight’s Cross of the Crown of Württemberg twenty-five years later. Although he could have left Stuttgart on several occasions for Dresden, Vienna etc., he settled for a secured life and stayed there. Despite his post at the opera, he was a very prolific composer in his own right and created – in addition to pieces such as overtures and concertos – no less than twenty-one operas. These range from opera seria to German romantic opera (e.g. Der Vampyr, 1828) and from German comic opera to historical grand opera. For the latter, Lindpaintner followed the example that Meyerbeer had set and created his historical opera Die sizilianische Vesper in 1843. Despite the fact that Lindpaintner’s operas feature German elements such as specific harmonies, rich orchestration and extensive use of folksong-like strophic songs, his tuneful melodies owe a great deal to the Franco-Italian operatic tradition and bel canto.

Il Vespro Siciliano (Die sizilianische Vesper) deals with the successful Sicilian uprising of 1282 against the French rule under Charles of Anjou. The plot leaves one slightly bamboozled and the many twists and turns explain the running time of over three ours. In the end, Charles does not succeed in marrying Eleonora, the wife of his Italian Count Fondi, and the French are finally crushed. Despite Stuttgart’s reputation for not being a very warm or even enthusiastic audience, the première saw “tumultuous calls for the composer to come out and take a bow, something which has never ever happened here before.” The work became Lindpaintner’s greatest success after Der Vampyr (1828). Sadly, it quickly vanished into oblivion and has now been published in a critical edition in full score for the first time.

As Lindpaintner visited Bad Wildbad (which is not very far from Stuttgart) often to recuperate, the decision to perform his grand opera at the Rossini Festival there in 2015 needs no justification, especially as Rossini came to Wildbad frequently to take the waters himself. Fittingly, the Opera was given in its Italian version rather than in German. The notes come in both English and German and give a good synopsis of the story, which is vital should you like to understand the complex plot. Virtuosi Brunensis were founded by Karel Mitáš (conductor at Brno’s Janáček Opera) and is made up of very capable musicians, their recording of Rossini’s Semiramide in 2013 being especially acclaimed. The Camerata Bach Choir (founded in 2003) by Tomasz Potkowski in Poznań consists mainly of soloists from the Poznań Opera Chorus and the Kraków Philharmonic Choir. They have served as ensemble in residence at the Rossini in Wildbad opera festival for the last eight years and have recorded eleven Rossini operas so far. Therefore, it was an excellent choice to have them record Lindpaintner’s Il Vespro Siciliano, which is so dependent on bel canto, despite its German influences. The musical quality of the ensembles under Federico Longo’s well accentuated baton is very good. It is thanks to their dedication, and the Rossini festival at Bad Wildbad, that we are able to listen to this opera – maybe other Lindpaintner operas are to follow. As both the composition and the rendering thereof are of so great quality, the three and a half hour running time makes for an extra treat rather than a threat. This set has definitely stirred my curiosity in this forgotten composer and his output.

Max Burgdörfer


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