Agency for Early Music

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A choice of programmes by Ars Antiqua Austria - Gunar Letzbor for 2020-2022

à la bavaroise...
Newly discovered delicacies by Rupert Ignaz Mayr

Bild BiberRupert Ignaz Mayr, born in Austrian Schärding am Inn in 1646, probably received his musical training in Passau. And he was not only one of the best-known and most sought-after violinists of his time in Austria and Bavaria, but also a much-played and highly praised composer.

Evidently he played the violin in the bishop's chapel of Eichstätt in 1678, but we also know that already in 1670 he had performed as a violinist at the prince-bishop's court in Freising. He also worked in Regensburg and Passau before moving to Munich in 1683.
There he was first sent to Paris by Elector Maximilian Emanuel II for »perfection«, where he got to know Lully's style. After his return, he worked not only as a »Primus Violinista Aulae et Camerae musicus« but also as a composer.

But that was still not the end of his career: in 1706 he was appointed chapel master of the Prince Bishop's chapel in Freising, where he was responsible for both church and chamber music. Several compositions, such as sonatas for the violin as well as music for singers and instruments, were created during this period and received the unreserved applause of the prince-bishop as well as that of the other court members - and they give proof of his extraordinary compositional talent.
What is particularly appealing in his music is the mixture between, on the one hand, very progressive forms, such as the concertante monody and the choral concert principle, with which Mayr let behind him the styles that were still prevalent in southern Germany at the time, and on the other hand, traces of Bavarian folk music, which gave his compositions a very own colour.

And yet: Today almost all of Mayr's works have been forgotten - and it took an indefatigable musical mole like Gunar Letzbor to dig out some of these wonderful pieces again and record them on CD with his ensemble ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA and also present them in concert.
In this programme you can experience several of Mayr's sacred works from his Sacri concentus from 1681 for one or more vocal soloists and instruments - and look forward to the finest musical delicacies of 17th-century Bavaria!

Soloist of the St. Florianer Sängerknaben - soprano
Gunar Letzbor - solo violin and musical direction
Fritz Kircher - violin
Markus Miesenberger - alto (and tenor)
Peter Trefflinger - basso di viola
Hubert Hoffmann - theorbo
Erich Traxler - organ

Various line-ups are possible for this programme, with one to five vocal soloists and instrumental ensemble.

Price: (for a cast of one singer and six instrumentalists): 6.000,- Euro, plus travel and hotel

Please do not hesitate to contact us about concert tours with this programme, which will reduce the price of a single concert.

Enjoy an impression of this music here with the Antiphon In terras descendam from Sacri Concentus:

Here you can learn more about Mayr and his music in an interview with Gunar Letzbor on YouTube.

Fiery longing and glorious love
Mozart's Mannheim sonatas

Bild CD-AufnahmeWhile the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his mother spent more time in Mannheim than originally planned on their trip to Paris in 1777/78, he sniffed plenty of fresh musical air: Here resided, pampered by the splendour of Elector Carl Theodor, some of the most important musical trendsetters of the time, such as Stamitz or Cannabich, whose new ideas Mozart eagerly soaked up. Influenced by this inspiration he created his Mannheim sonatas for violin and harpsichord, in which the young Salzburg composer included the new style elements and thus wrote masterpieces of the chamber music repertoire - that furthermore speak of tender love as well as fiery veneration for the singer Aloysia Weber, whith which he had fallen in love.

Last year Gunar Letzbor and Erich Traxler, harpsichord, recorded these sonatas and discovered - after careful reading of Mozart's letters and numerous other sources from this period - many new sides of the works. But of course that's how we know Gunar: after working on a certain repertoire he always comes up with one or the other musical surprise, some eureka moments...

And of course the two musicians now want to go on tour with this music!

Gunar Letzbor - violin
Erich Traxler - harpsichord

Price: 3.000,- Euro, plus travel and hotel

Please do not hesitate to contact us about concert tours with this programme, which will reduce the price of a single concert.

Here you can enjoy an impression from KV 303 and listen to what you could expect at a concert:

Rosary sonatas - revisited
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber's most mystical music in a new interpretation

Bild BiberIt was in September 1996 when seven enthusiastic musicians, who had come together to form the ensemble ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA around the violinist Gunar Letzbor some years before, met in beautiful Hallstadt, Austria, to record one of the most impressive and fascinating cycles in the history of music on CD: Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber's 15 sonatas on the 15 mysteries of the rosary and the final passacaglia. A cycle, which is extremely demanding in terms of technic, by the way: very fast, virtuoso passages, an enormous ambitus, double stops and an own system of scordatures for each individual sonata limit the number of musicians who are able to play these pieces adequately to this day.
Gunar Letzbor and ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA were able to do this - and so a CD was created in 1996 that is still considered a reference recording of these works by many friends of violin music.

Nevertheless: After Gunar Letzbor had played these sonatas hundreds of times in concerts and had thought about them again and again, after 23 years he came to the conclusion that today he had something new to say about them: »After looking at the old recording, after listening to it again, I was amazed at how beautiful and inspired we had played at that time. But I also had the feeling that at that time we had not yet grasped the work itself intrinsically, but only celebrated its outer beauty. Slowly there developed a desire to record the Mystery Sonatas a second time. Still I hesitated. It really has to make sense to add yet another interpretation after a successful and good recording. But when Michael Sawall of the Pan Classics label asked me some time ago to think about a second CD of the rosary sonatas, I started to prepare a new recording.«

Thought - done. The new recording of the Rosary Sonatas was released at the end of January 2020. And it is great!
Not only more mature and deeper in the approach to music, but also technically more confident and effortless in the virtuoso passages and movements. And of course you can hear that ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA has not only been playing together for eight years (as in the first recording), but over three decades now - a period in which an almost unerring certainty and familiarity in the interaction between the musicians has been established.
Furthermore new research results from Hubert Hoffmann on the so-called Salzburg Lute Continuo were inplemented into the new release, which fundamentally question the previous performance practice and open up a whole new world of sound for the listener.

Of course now the musicians would also like to play the cycle in concert more often, taking all of these new findings into account, in order to show as broad an audience as possible where the decades of exploration of Biber's beautiful music has taken them.

Gunar Letzbor - solo violin and musical direction
Hubert Hoffmann - theorbo
Jan Krigovsky - violin
Erich Traxler - organ

Und für die Sonaten IV, X und XIV:
Salzburger Lautencontinuo:
Hubert Hoffmann - lute
Lee Santana - chitarra attiorbata
Daniel Oman - colascione

For this programme we can offer different casts, from three to six musicians.

Price (for a cast of six musicians): 6.000,- Euro, plus travel and hotel

Please do not hesitate to contact us about concert tours with this programme, which will reduce the price of a single concert.

Enjoy here an impression of the new CD with the Praeludium from Sonata 1:

Here an impression of the effects of the Salzburg lute continuo with an Aria from Sonata 14:

A notion of EU: three musketeers from Austria
Musica Austriaca - in French Goût

Bild EU-FlaggeFrance? This country was - especially before and during the War of the Spanish Succession between 1701 and 1714 - so frowned upon at the Austrian imperial court that the upper class there didn't even bear to hear French music. Thus music in the empire was dominated by Italian influences for decades, and in many places the many cultures united under the wings of the monarchy between Naples and Bavaria also created their own regional musical styles.

Nevertheless, there were always musicians in Austrian countries who dared to incorporate French style elements into their compositions: Because they came from France, had learned there - or simply dared to think politically incorrect. Which didn't mean that they simply copied the French taste; no, rather they mixed it with the Austrian-Italian style to evolve something completely new!

In the first decades of the 18th century, there were primarily three brave musical musketeers doing so: the first was Georg Muffat (1653-1704), born in Savoy, who studied in Paris for six years before moving to Vienna and Prague. Finally he worked at the court of the Bishop of Passau. In the foreword to one of his works he once emphasised: »The warlike weapons and their causes are far from me; The notes, the pages, the lovely music tones give me what I do, and since I am pouring in the French style into the German and Italian music, I did not initiate a war, but perhaps foreplay to their peoples the desired harmony, to dear peace someday.« And in this sense, he freely used the elegance of French melody and ornamentation.
Benedikt Anton Aufschnaiter (1665-1742) was Muffat's successor as chapelmaster in Passau, and he also experimented again and again with French elements in his music - in a way also benefiting from the fact that Passau was far enough from the imperial court to make possible such politically incorrect ventures.
And a third musketeer who gladly paid homage to the French style was Rupert Ignaz Mayr (1646-1712), who had been sent to Paris by Elector Maximilian II Emanuel to perfect his education in Paris with Jean-Baptiste Lully and later worked in Freising.

All three left impressing traces throughout the empire, because their music was well received by the listeners - to the greatest dismay of the politically correct in the country. How lucky that ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA no longer has to take such considerations into account, because the music of our three musketeers has not lost any of its charm over the past three centuries: it has to be elegant, dance-like and played in an extremely perfect way, then these melodies still inspire today!

And so ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA and Gunar Letzbor not only move in the footsteps of these musketeersin this programme practically, but also ideally, because in Muffat's, Aufschnaiter's and Mayr's music they show, so to speak, the first premonitions of that cosmopolitanism and that cultural transcendence that finally led to an European Union 250 years later!

Gunar Letzbor - solo violin and musical direction
Friedrich Kircher - violin
Markus Miesenberger, Barbara Konrad - viola
Hubert Hoffmann - theorbo
Jan Krigovsky - violone
Erich Traxler - harpsichord/organ

Price: 6.300,- Euro, plus travel and hotel

Please do not hesitate to contact us about concert tours with this programme, which will reduce the price of a single concert. For instance concerts will take place on 12th, 13th und 14th March 2021.

Listen to a piece from this programme, a prime example of typical Austrian melancholy in an Allemande from Muffat's Florilegium Primum:

In contrast, a Gigue from the same collection exudes Austrian folk song character:

Julo Ascanio - Re d'Alba
A chamber opera by J.J. Fux for Emperor Josef I

Bild Julo AscanioWritten for the name day of Emperor Josef I in 1708, Johann Joseph Fux' Chamber Opera Julo Ascanio is not only an extremely entertaining, but also a very unusual work - in various ways.

First of all, it is not a number opera, but a chamber opera for five singers and a relatively small orchestra - and thus the piece did not correspond to the listening habits of the Viennese audience at the beginning of the 18th century.
Various arias of dance character instead of balletti, separated by short, crisp recitatives, as well as a whole series of folk music-like melodies are further characteristics of Fux' visionary ideas of ​​the already frozen genre of the opera.
Also the melodic language of the piece points far into future - to the extent that even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart borrowed a theme from one of these arias for his Magic Flute a good 80 years later.
And finally, Julo Ascanio is much shorter than one is used to from common baroque operas: conceived as a courtly Serenata of two hours (including a break), the piece has the optimal length for a concert even by today's standards - and also makes possible (semi-) scenic performances with rather modest means and reasonable effort.

And the plot? Well, it's an opera ...: It's - how could it be otherwise? - about love! First unhappy, then happy!

Gunar Letzbor and ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA have rediscovered this piece after centuries of oblivion and would like to prove - in conjunction with an exceptional group of singers - to today's audience that this work has lost none of its attractiveness for music lovers all over the world for over 300 years.

Costumes and a small stage set-up for scenic performances are available and can be brought to a concert with relatively little effort.

Maria Ladurner - soprano
Alois Mühlbacher - soprano
Markus Forster - altus
Daniel Johannsen - tenor
Gerd Kenda - bass

20 instrumentalists

Gunar Letzbor - solo violin and musical direction

Price:24.000,- Euro, plus travels and hotel

Please do not hesitate to contact us about concert tours with this programme, which will reduce the price of a single concert.

Listen here to the aria Vola già di lido from Julo Ascanio, with Daniel Johannsen, tenor:

Jesus Christ - denied by Peter
A newly discovered Sepolcro by court composer Johann Joseph Fux

Bild Konzert SepolcroIt was heard for the first time in Holy Week in 1719: the Sepolcro Pariatis Gesù Cristo negato da Pietro. Componimento sacro per musica by the imperial court composer Johann Joseph Fux (around 1660-1741), written in extremely flowery language by the court poet Pietro Pariati. This oratorio was performed as a funeral service in the Viennese court chapel, and the plot is structured accordingly: in a constellation of two biblical figures (Peter and a maid of Caiaphas) ​​and three allegorical figures, the Gospel texts on the denial of Christ by Peter are presented in dramatised discussions - and, according to the customs at the Viennese court, in a rather Jesuit way.
The court at the time was enthusiastic about this new work - and the typical Viennese genre of the Sepolcro had once again demonstrated its public appeal.

Gunar Letzbor and ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA together with an Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, have been unearthing the Sepolcri, but also the Serenades (about two-hour operas - also a very special Viennese genre) and Oratorios by Fux, whose original scores and parts are in part in the Austrian National Library, in part in the Musikverein or in the archives of the Vienna Court Orchestra. Jesus Christ - Denied by Peter is the first Sepolcro they have dealt with: A stroke of luck!
In order to make the two-hour work easier to comprehend for today's listeners, Gunar Letzbor decided to omit part of the expansive recitatives of the Sepolcro and instead let the singers speak some of the lyrics in German, in a sort of summaries. In addition, the singers also recite the short texts of each aria in German, before singing it so that the listeners can easily follow the observations of the actors.

The creation of a modern score for this Sepolcro had meant a lengthy research and edition work - but it was obviously worth the effort: The modern premiere of the work in January 2020 at the Vienna Konzerthaus ended with long-lasting applause, trampling by the audience and standing ovations!

Apostle Peter – Daniel Johannsen
Ballila, maid of Kaiphas – Alois Mühlbacher
The Jewish hatred of Christ – Gerd Kenda
The Divine Love for Man – Markus Forster
Sinful humanity – Maria Ladurner
Choir of Jews/Choir of sinners waiting for redemption - Tutti

Fritz Kircher - violin
Mira Letzbor - violin
Barbara Konrad - viola
Jan Krigovsky - violone
Hubert Hoffmann - theorbo
Erich Traxler - organ
Norbert Salvenmoser - trombone

Gunar Letzbor - solo violin and musical direction

Price: 15.000,- Euro, plus travel and hotel

Please do not hesitate to contact us about concert tours with this programme, which will reduce the price of a single concert.

Listen to a small excerpt from the piece here, in a live recording of the modern premiere at the Vienna Konzerthaus on January 24, 2020:

Franz Joseph Aumann: Missa St. Xavery and Te Deum
Late Baroque splendor from the St. Florian Abbey

Bild Stift St. FlorianThe St. Florian Abbey near Linz is known to us above all as Anton Bruckner's place of living (for some time) and (lifelong) longing. But long before Bruckner's birth already music was flourishing in the Augustinian monastery, and numerous important composers worked there as Regens Chori of the famous St. Florian Boys' Choir or as organists.

One of them was Franz Joseph Aumann (1728-1797). Born in 1728, he met some of the most important musicians of his time while studying music in Vienna - including Joseph Haydn and Georg Albrechtsberger -, but turned to St. Florian in 1753 at the age of 25. There his musical talent was evidently recognized instantly, because two years later he was appointed Regens Chori already - one year before his ordination! He held this office until his death, writing masses, motets, litanies, offertories, several requiems and oratorios, but also - to the special delight of his Augustinian confreres - Singspiele in dialect.

With a total of around 300 (mainly spiritual) works, Aumann exercised immense influence on church music throughout Austria, and in the 19th century his works - which were extremely sophisticated in terms of counterpoint and harmoniously wonderfully colourful, but also enriched by the melodiousness of classical style - still were played regularly in St. Florian and elsewhere, and were highly valued: Anton Bruckner in particular was fascinated by his works and repeatedly emphasised how much he had learned from studying them. Various counterpoint techniques and immanent imitation can be found in both composers' works, but Bruckner was also inspired by Aumann's symphonic approach to the instruments of the orchestra. In addition, the use of the trumpets as a divine symbol, the repetitions of motifs for washs of the strings and the structure of the trombone parts should also be mentioned as characteristics of Aumann's style, which can be refound in Bruckner's music.

From today's perspective, it seems completely incomprehensible that Aumann's music was almost forgotten in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Luckily, Gunar Letzbor had been enthusiastic about Aumann's special stylistics for years already and began to research his works in various archives. And found some.

This programme, which he brings to life with his ensemble ARS ANTIQUA AUSTRIA and the St. Florian Boys' Choir, once again proves his urge to research: It includes the Te Deum by Aumann, which has been performed several times in the presence of Bruckner, but also was sung in St. Florian Monastery during a festive mass for the coronation of Emperor Franz Josef. Next to it this programme includes two of Aumann's motets in an arrangement by Anton Bruckner, who added trombone parts. There are also some short instrumental pieces by Antonio Caldara and Gregor Werner, and finally Aumann's splendidly late Baroque Missa Sancti Xavery with its fantastic trumpet parts that were so difficult that they could no longer be performed with the trumpets of the romantic period (so that from the 19th Century simplified parts for the trumpets have survived).

Thus in this programme, you can look forward to a part of Austrian cultural history in sounds, in which you can almost hear the pulchritude and positive atmosphere of the beautiful St. Florian Abbey!

Soloist of the St. Florianer Sängerknaben - soprano
Alois Mühlbacher – altus
Markus Miesenberger – tenor
Markus Schulz - bass (soloist of the St. Florianer Sängerknaben)
St. Florianer Sängerknaben, direction: Franz Farnberger

Fritz Kircher, Werner Neugebauer, Mira Letzbor, Barbara Konrad, Nina Pohn – violin
Peter Trefflinger - cello
Jan Krigovsky – violone 16'
Christian Simeth – clarino
Martin Mühringer – clarino
Norbert Salvenmoser – trombone
Bernhard Rainer – trombone
Stefan Reichinger – timpani
Hubert Hoffmann - theorbo
Erich Traxler – organ

Gunar Letzbor - musical direction

Price: 18.000,- Euro, plus travel and hotel

Please do not hesitate to contact us about concert tours with this programme, which will reduce the price of a single concert. One concert is confirmed already for begin of May 2021.

Here you can find the live recording of the entire Aumann mass on our YouTube channel.

picture Ars Antiqua AustriaArs Antiqua Austria, the ensemble of new Baroque music, was founded 1989 in Linz by Gunar Letzbor, with the intention of introducing audiences to the roots of specifically Austrian baroque music played on period instruments.
The music performed at the imperial court in Vienna during this era shows influences of the many Crownlands: Elements of Slavic and Hungarian folk music mingle with alpine sounds and all this can easily be detected in the art music of the period, too. Thus the Austrian sound also reflects the temperament and character of the Austrians of that period - a unifying element in the melting-pot of so many different cultures: the joie de vivre of the South, Slavic melancholy, French formality, Spanish pomp and the Alpine character of the German-speaking regions.
The core of Ars Antiqua Austria comprises 8 musicians directed by Gunar Letzbor. The number of players though is often augmented or reduced, according to the repertoire.

During its early years Ars Antiqua Austria gave numerous concerts while researching the achievements of Austrian baroque composers in depth. Thanks to Gunar's unflagging commitment, many works received their first performances in modern times.

Enthusiastic reviews welcomed CDs of music by Weichlein, Biber, Conti, Viviani, Mealli, Arnold, Caldara, Aufschnaiter, Vilsmayr, Vejvanovsky, Schmelzer, Muffat and of course J.S.Bach. Several of these CDs were awared with prices and distinctions.

In 2000 Ars Antiqua Austria started a cycle of concerts in the Vienna Konzerthaus on the theme of Austrian Baroque music. Beginning in 2001 the ensemble is playing a leading part in a concert series with more than 90 concerts called "Sound of Cultures - Culture of Sound". Ten different programmes are repeated in Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, Cracow, Venice, Ljubljana, Mechelen, Budapest and Lübeck.
Recent tours have taken the ensemble to the Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht, Festival de la Musique Baroque at Ribeauville, Berlin Festival of Ancient Music, Festival Printemps des Arts at Nantes, Tage Alter Musik Herne, Folles Journées de Nantes, Musée d'Unterlinden Colmar, Monteverdi Festival Cremona, Festival Baroque du Sablon, Salzburger Festspiele, Festival Bach de Lausanne, Bologna Festival, Concerti della Normale Pisa, or Resonanzen Wien.

picture Gunar LetzborGunar Letzbor, the founder of Ars Antiqua Austria, studied composition, conducting and violin at Linz, Salzburg and Cologne. His encounters with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Reinhard Goebel ignited a deep passion for period instruments and performance practice, led him to perform extensively with Musica Antiqua Köln, the Clemencic Consort, La Folia Salzburg, Armonico Tributo Basel and the Wiener Akademie.

As a soloist as well as with Ars Antiqua Austria, Letzbor has made numerous recordings, including several world premieres. Many of these CDs have received major record awards, including the Cannes Classical Award and Amadeus' Disco dell'Anno. Particulary remarkable was his world's premiere recording of the Sonate for violin solo by J.J.Vilsmayr and J.P.Westhoff.

Letzbor has performed at virtually every major baroque music festival or concert stage in Europe and beyond, from Vienna to Berlin, from Paris to Rome, from Amsterdam to Prague; furthermore he is a widely respected teacher, giving masterclasses all over Europe.