Classical CD Reviews

JOSEPH BALTHASAR HOCHREITHER: Requiem; Missa Jubilus sacer – Soloists/ St. Florianer Sängerknaben/ Ars Antiqua Austria/ Gunar Letzbor – Pan Classics

Worthy performances of a questionably worthy composer.

Published on May 23, 2013

JOSEPH BALTHASAR HOCHREITHER: Requiem; Missa Jubilus sacer – Alois Mühlbacher, sop./ Markus Forster, countertenor/ Markus Miesenberger, tenor/ Gerhard Kenda, bass/ St. Florianer Sängerknaben/ Ars Antiqua Austria/ Gunar Letzbor – Pan Classics PC 10264, 58:58 [Distr. by Naxos] ***:

Little is known of Joseph Balthasar Hochreither (born in Salzburg, 1669 – 1731) except that he was an Austrian organist and composer who probably, but not known for sure, studied under Heinrich Biber, who was teaching at the Salzburg Kapellhaus, a very old school for highly talented boys. Georg Muffat was also organist in the town for a time and it is probable that Hochreither heard him perform on the organ as well. He got his master’s degree and ended up as cathedral chapter organist in Salzburg from 1721 until his death. There are 21 surviving extant works.

The question as to whether every undiscovered old “master” of the baroque and classical periods should be revived and recorded will continue to be a hot one. Though the notes to the release speak of the unexpected high quality of these works I would say in effect, compared to whom? The Requiem, a piece truncated in over three different sources, may not have been intended for unified performance at all. The piece itself is remarkably uninspired, inspiring neither fear nor imposing consolation. The muted trumpets and muffled timpani are unique and very striking features, though one knows from the start that this is no Biber. The Missa Jubilus sacer was composed in the year of his death, though we are not privy as to the reason of its composition. This is a far greater work than the sad Requiem, especially noteworthy for its use of four high baroque trumpets, adding a festive and particularly jubilant feeling to the piece. The choral writing is solid and rigorous, but again hardly on the level of a Biber. It is a worthy piece but nothing that merits particular attention unless one is an inveterate collector of all things Baroque. Performances are all one could ask for and the sound is excellent. But it’s tough to recommend one-half of a disc.

—Steven Ritter

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