It has been said of Johann Adolf Hasse that few composers have been as famous in their time as Hasse, and yet as quickly forgotten. In Italy he had been called the ‘Padre della musica’, yet upon his death only one musical work was written in his honour by J.A Hiller, a friend of Hasse. So what happened to one of the most successful opera composers of the 18th century after Handel and Gluck, to bring about such a fall from favour? A composer who knew Frederick the Great and performed with the monarch? First, he simply became out of date after a very long career, and secondly, he lost his considerable wealth due to the collapse of the Venetian financial system in the early 1780s. He died in Venice aged 84, his funeral attended by his daughter and a few others. His gravestone wasn’t erected until 1820 – a sad story indeed.
In his pomp Hasse was the epitome of a modern composer. Traveling widely, especially to Italy, he spoke only Italian (he was German by birth), set only Italian texts, and married one of the stars of Italian opera. Although he spent 30 years as Kapellmeister in Dresden, and a decade at the Imperial Court in Vienna, he never severed his ties with Italy.
The music on this disc, the first volume of a Brilliant Classics edition of Hasse, dates from early in his career and just predates his meteoric rise to fame. His style straddles the late Baroque of Alessandro Scarlatti and the emerging Classical style of Gluck, the young Joseph Haydn and the Stamitz brothers.
His music and reputation deserve reassessment. It was after all Mozart who wrote that he hoped to ‘become immortal, like Handel and Hasse’.
- Recorded in 2008, period instrument performances.
- Comprehensive booklet note and sung texts included.
- Important project of an unjustly neglected master who was a major influence on composers such as Mozart and Haydn.
- This release also contains two trio sonatas, Op.3 Nos. 2 & 3.