MAYR: L'Armonia / Cantata sopra la morte di Beethoven (Altin Piriu/ Franz Hauk/ Franz Hauk/ Ingolstadt Georgian Chamber Orchestra/ Nikolay Borchev/ Simon Mayr Choir/ Talia Or/ Teije van Geest) (Naxos: 8.557958)
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Simon Mayr (1763-1845)
L'Armonia • Cantata for the Death of Beethoven
L'Armonia – Azione drammatica per soli, coro ed orchestra
(Harmony – Dramatic Cantata for Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra)
Testo dell'abate Giovanni Battista Baizini (Baisini)
(Text by Giovanni Battista Baizini (Baisini)
Da eseguirsi in occasione che la sacra Cesarea Apostolica Maestà di Francesco I Imperatore e Re onorerà di Sua Augusta presenza la Regia Città di Bergamo, il XXX giugno MDCCCXXV
(To be performed on the day on which His Sacred Imperial Apostolic Majesty Franz I, Emperor and King, honours with his noble presence the Royal City of Bergamo, 30 June, 1825)
Leader of the Bards - Talia Or, Soprano
Leader of the Soldiers - Altin Piriù, Tenor
Leader of the People - Nikolay Borchev, Bass
Bards, Soldiers, People - Simon Mayr Choir
(Soloists: Anne Borchers, Angelika Huber, Miriam Galonska,
Valer Georg, Barna Sabadus, Bastian Ziegler, Christian Eberl, Ivan Orescanin)
Born in the Bavarian town of Mendorf, near Ingolstadt, in 1763, Simon Mayr was the son of a schoolteacher and showed some early ability as a musician. He was a pupil at the Jesuit College in Ingolstadt, before entering the university to study theology, while continuing to demonstrate great versatility as a musician. His musical training, however, only began in earnest in 1787, when a patron, noticing his talent, took him to Italy. There, from 1789, he studied with Carlo Lenzi, master of music at Bergamo Cathedral. There followed, through the generosity of another patron, a period of study with Bertoni in Venice. His early commissioned compositions were largely in the form of sacred oratorios, but in 1794 his opera Saffo was staged in Venice. His turning to opera owed much to the encouragement he received from Piccinni and Peter von Winter, and other operas followed for Venice and then for La Scala, Milan, and for other Italian theatres, with an increasingly large number of performances abroad. In 1802 he followed Lenzi as maestro di cappella at the cathedral of Sta Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, becoming director of the cathedral choir school three years later. Mayr held these positions until his death in 1845. As a teacher he won the particular respect of his pupil Gaetano Donizetti. He did much to promote the knowledge of the Viennese classical composers, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, in Italy. His own style reflects something of this, but essentially in an Italian context. He was, needless to say, immensely prolific as a composer, with nearly seventy operas to his credit between 1794 and 1824, and some six hundred sacred works.
L'Armonia: A state visit: Bergamo, 1 July to 2 July 1825
A full programme awaited Emperor Franz I (II), Empress Caroline Augusta and Archduke Viceroy Franz Karl, son of the Emperor, with his wife Sophie, a Bavarian Princess and step-sister of the Empress, during their two day visit to Bergamo. The official state visit began on 1 July 1825 at eight o'clock in the morning with both boys' and girls' schools being visited. The Emperor visited the new workshop built by the seminary, followed by the Santa Grata Monastery, the higher schools, lycées and secondary schools. The Empress paid a visit to the Accademia Carrara, the famous educational school of painting and to the Ursuline Convent and also the orphanage for girls, the so-called Conventino, founded by Giovanni Battista Piazzoni, was visited. The illustrious guests went to Mass in the Cathedral, and afterwards to the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore and the Colleoni Chapel. The Emperor was particularly interested in the manufacturing industry and economy of Bergamo, and in the silk spinning of Messrs Carissimi. The grand market, a trade fair starting traditionally not before 22 August, was "brought forward" for the time of the imperial visit. The most important merchants were ordered to attend so that the Emperor might be given a good impression of the flourishing economic life of Bergamo. In particular new machinery was proudly presented at this occasion. The collector and garden enthusiast Franz I examined the great botanical collections in the Maffei house and garden. A musical presentation then awaited the Emperor, performed by the pupils of the Simon Mayr Music School. In fact the entire city of Bergamo presented itself in all its splendour and glory. At the end of the imperial visit Simon Mayr's cantata L'Armonia was performed on 2 July 1825 at the Riccardi Theatre. On 7 July Bergamo's newspaper Il Giornale d'Indizi Giudiziari, N° 27, reported:
"The Riccardi Theatre was honoured by the presence of the Imperial Couple, the Archduke Franz Karl and Archduchess Sofia, the Archduke Viceroy and the Archduchess Vicereine on this evening [of 2 July]. They visited an azione drammatica entitled L'Armonia, which was expressly presented by the city especially for this happy occasion. For this purpose the acclaimed Mayr composed the music. The extremely talented Sanquirico provided the stage design. The presence of Their Majesties and their illustrious company was a source of exceptional delight to the assembled audience, manifesting itself in the expressions of enthusiasm of the public. The proceeds of this performance were donated to charity and thus charity and popular tribute were brought together into one of the happiest occasions our city can boast".
Simon Mayr's biographer, Girolamo Calvi, reports that Mayr's L'Armonia, "his last composition for theatre", was very successful and was very much enjoyed, especially the chorus for soprano and alto voci bianche, "Scendi de' cantici alma custode". Emperor Franz and his wife were said, according to his biographer, to have praised Mayr so highly that the composer returned to his house on this happy evening with tears of joy in his eyes.
The Political Message of L'Armonia
L'Armonia as an azione drammatica means a musical play enacted on stage with stage setting and scenery. It is in the spirit of a Serenata or Licenza, a homage to the sovereign and thus symbolic in character.
The harmony of the spheres made use of by Baizini and Mayr contains an implicit political message which was surely recognised by the audience of the time. Baizini proves to be an erudite librettist, as he knows how to insert Latin quotations into his poetry. He refers to Ovid (Epistulae ex Ponto II, 9, 48) adde, quod ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes emollit mores nec sinit esse feros (Truthful learning of the noble arts renders the character gentle nor allows wildness). A quotation from Virgil in connection with the flute-playing shepherd appears (P. Vergilius Maro, Ecloga I, 6-10: Tityrus): O Meliboee, deus nobis haec otia fecit (Meliboeus, a god created for us this leisure). The first scene also makes reference to the merchants of Bergamo (Orobia), to wine, maize and to Carissim