Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Hofkirche Dresden

The Hofkirche is now the Catholic Cathedral in Dresden. It was built as the Court Catholic Church after the conversion of the Wettin Family rulers. Frederic Augustus II (Augustus the Strong) converted in 1697 and the first court church was in a former opera house. It was not until 1738 that his son  demanded a new Court Church with the foundation stone laid in 1739. the architect was the Italian Gaetano Chiaveri (1689-1770). He fell out with the authorities and several Germans adapted and completed the building, with consecvration in 1751. The large Ascension painting over the high altar by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779) is memorable. Severe damage occurred in the appalling bombing on 13 Febrary 1945.The restoration has been superb.

My own memories of this beautiful building go back to my first visit when I camped soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall in  More of this when I write about the Frauenkirche. Suffice it to say that I went to Sunday Mass (prayting for reconciliation) and when I reached my nearby car someone had scratched a small swastika with 13 2 45. Dresden has always been near to my heart  particularly since that day. As for the building : it is obviously Baroque - very different from its more famous Protestant neighbour the Frauenkirche, but its white decor, great acoustics, and  elegance make a great impression. The Silbermann organ (pipes survived 1945) is majestic. Wonderful for JS Bach. The most popular musical figure during Frederic Augustus III's regn was Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) and we can suggest that his Requiem    in C for his employer's funeral, a Mass in d or the deeply felt Miserere below are the perfect accompaniment to the building.  Hasse was a very prolific composer, especially of opera and for many years has had a bad press. This is changing  and he is worth exploring.

1755 Gottfried Silbermann/Zacharias Hildebrandt organ. James Kibbie. JS Bach Prelude in C major, BWV 545 0:00 Prelude in E minor, BWV 548 1:53 Fugue in G minor, BWV 578 7:47 Toccata and Fugue in F major, BWV 540 11:18

Interior : this dazzling shot gives the atmosphere (David  Lagourie Gosling : flickr)

Exterior : such elegance ! (NH53 ; flickr)
Hasse  Miserere
Johann Adolf Hasse 1699-1783 Miserere per Soli, Coro e Orchester in D minor: 1. Miserere 0:10 2. Tibi soli peccavi 4:22 3. Ecce enim 7:01 4. Quoniam si voluisses 13:26 5. Benigne fac, Domine 16:11 6. Tunc acceptabis 19:09 Simona Houda-Šaturová [soprano] Pritta Schwarz [alto] Eric Stokloßa [tenore] Gotthold Schwarz [basso] Dresdner Kammerchor Dresdner Barockorchester Hans-Christoph Rademann [conductor]

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Mexico City Cathedral

The biggest  Cathedral in the Americas? (Flickr : Pinkitron)

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven is the  Cathedral of the Roman Catholic diocese of Mexico.and has been described as the largest Cathedral in the Americas. 
I have never set eyes on this but I am always fascinated by big buildings! As we shall see it is not strictly speaking Baroque but then many of my choices in this blog are a mixture. It was built on the foundations of the former Aztec sacred precinct and main temple of their capital city Tenochtitlan. Parts of the old temple were used to fill canals or as building material in foundations or ground walls. The first building was started in 1525-1532 by the conqueror Hernan Cortes.The present building took shape from 1573-1813 around the original church,The Spanish architect Claudio de Arciniega made the plans and can be described as the father of the present cathedral.  Priority in planning had to be given to lay firm foundations on the soft ground of a dry lake bed in an earthquake zone. By 1615 the walls were only up to half the proposed height but eight vaulkts had been completed. It was consecrated in 1656. It is 360 feet long by 179feet. It is a real merger of styles and incorporates Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements, and is built of basalt and grey sandstone. There are four facades,and 16 chapels with paintings attributed to Zurburan and Murillo. The two bell towers with  the 25 bells are important. They could announce disaster like earthquakes or good news like a fiesta or some kind of  victory. . The interior has 3 aisles There are 2 large 18th century organs which were damaged in a recent fire. They promise to be really exciting with the usual array of protruding chamade reeds. 

Adjoining is the Sagrario Metropolitano which is of the Cathedral. The Sagrario serves the local parish and was inaugurated in 1768. It is a great example of Mexican Churrigueresque style, and is the work of Lorenzo Rodriguez (1704?-1774) a Spanish born architect and Pedro Patino Ixtolinque, a native born sculptor.

Much more could be said about this hhuge building. Maybe someone will add some material / show their enthusiasm! I have never got to Mexico and is not Mexico City  the biggest city  in the world?  

Interior (Flickr : VasenkaPhotography)

La Romanesca con Cinque Mutanze - Antonio Valente.

                  Mexico City Cathedral  before 1967

Witley Court

Imagine finding a Baroque church  with ornate interior in regular use next to a huge stately home ravaged by fire in 1937, in the middle of the country! St Michael and All Angels Witley Court!
The church was originally built in two years (1733-5) to the west of the Court by Thomas, 2nd Lord Foley to designs possibly by James Gibbs (1682-1754). It had a plain brick exterior to match the  Court as it was then. It has always been a parish church rather than a family chapel.

In 1747 something remarkable happened. The Duke of Chandos had built his great house at Canons, at Stanmore, norh London. THis included a chapel designed by James Gibbs built before 1719. After that he had lost a  fortune and after his death in 1744 the estate at Canons had to be solf off. Foley found out about the chapel and bought  the box pews, several ceiling paintings by Antonio Bellucci (1654-1726), 10 stained glass windows  in 38 sections filling 5 crates, and the ornamental organ case of the instrument played by Handel.  The paintings could be moved because they were on canvas and could be rolled up. The plasterwork by Giovanni Bagutti could not be dismounted so detailed drawings and moulds were made so they could be recreated at Witley by Italian stucco workers. Therefore elaborate plasterwork  replaced the original ceiling at Witley, suspended by a timber framework. They needed to lighten the weight of this ceiling so they employed a new invention - papier mache - by Henry Clay of Birmingham, and therefore some of what we see today employs guilded papier mache.

Luckily the church at Witley was roughly the same size as the Canons chapel. The windows required wooden frames to hold them with a golden yellow border at the bottom to fit the required space.

The disastrous fire at the Court in 1937 led to problems and decline and it was only in the 1960s that parish members took the initiative to renovate. The major restoration of 1993-4 was followed by the cupola repair and guilding of the dome in 2004/5.

Perhaps we may regret the loss of the box pews and their replacement by Victorian pews. Alas the organ pipes went elsewhere and what you hear today is a rebuild by Nicholson of Worcester from 1860. However it is a remarkbale interior and anyone who has loved the Stanmore church should not miss this one!
Look at that organ case! (Flickr : Ed Jeavens)

What an interior (Flickr bv14092)

Exterior view  (Flickr : Richard Wise)
Look at that ceiling (Fickr bvl4092)

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Karlskirche, Vienna

The Karlskirche is one of the iconic buildings of Vienna. When plague struck Vienna in 1713 and took nearly 13000 Viennese victims, this part of Vienna was wooded meadows alongside the Wien river. Today it is the axis of a huge open space in central Vienna. Indeed planners have argued over the centuries how to organise the huge space with this gigantic masterpiece as a backdrop. Johannes Brahms lived just round the corner from it. The famed Musikverein concert hall is within easy walking distance. Yet the first time I saw it back in the late 1960s it seemed to be out on a limb and rather dingy. Inside seemed too short and dark. In fact it is 262 feet long and 197 feet wide.Today is very different..
Emperor Charles VI pledged this church for the plague victims and dedicated it to St Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584 a former Archbishop of Milan and saint of plague victim). In the contest to design it, the victor was Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. He worked on it until his death in 1723 and his son finished it in 1737.
The building symbolises Church and Emire with the cross on the dome the power of God and the two triumphal arches the power of the Emperor. The porch is like a Greek temple and the huge columns remind one of  the column of Trajan in Rome. The two huge bell towers have even been said to be pagoda like.
Inside the 236 foot dome Gaetano Fanti created trompe l'oeil paintings at the lower edge and Johann Michael Rottmayr, in 1725-30, the huge fresco of St Borromeo begging the Trinity to end the plague. Rottmayr also did the smaller paintings in the choir vault, chapels and above the organ.Back in 2007 major work was being undertaken in the dome. Our photos show the restoration of the frescos. A huge platform has been erected and visitors can still  use this to get astounding closeup views of the ceiling. of the dome as the restoration continues.
The high altar was designed by Fischer von Erlach shows Borromeo rising through the clouds toward the Divine Light. This and other stucco work is by Albert Camesina.
During our visit this spring in 2017 we went to Saturday night Mass where local soldiers were having a special occasion in full uniform and the organist entertained us with music in the best possible taste (some doubtful vibrato effects).

Dome view

Dome view

Borromeo in the dome

Another view of the dome

High altar

High altar

View into dome with scaffolding

Another view of the scaffolding

St Peter's Vienna

This exuberant Baroque masterpiece right in the centre of Vienna is on the site of a 4th century church. It was commissioned in 1703 by Emperor Leopold I and designed by a number of architects - notably Gabrieli Montani. However it was completed by 1733 under the supervision of the great Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt and it is with his name that the church is usually linked. It can be viewed as a triumphant remodelling of St Peters in Rome.
The wonderful fresco of the Assumption in the dome is by Michael Rottmayr.The pulpit is by Mathias Steindll. The statue of St John Nepomuk to th eright of the choir is by Lorenzo Mattieli. The painting above the high altar of the healing of hte lame man at the Beautiful Gate by Peter and James is by MartinoAltomonte.
My memories of  it include a Sunday Mass concluded with Bach Fantasia in G BWV572 : it doesnt get better than this! Then at Christmas they have a display of historic and new cribs in the crypt.
To get the atmosphere try the  first video below starting with bells, then the horse drawn carriages and the church interior - brings it all back so vividly. The other video is a rehearsal for Bach Christmas Oratorio.

                                                      Bach Christmas oratorio

Jesuit Church Vienna

We first discovered this church in the Old City in November 2007 and went back to hear a liturgical performance of a Mozart Mass with orchestra. It was packed. This was founded as the University Church when Emperor Ferdinand II entrusted the Jesuits with the University. It was built 1623-31 and remodeled by Andrea Pozzo 1703-5. In particular he added the twin towers and modified the front.
This early Baroque church faces an imposing square. and can be found in the narrow streets near the St Stephen's Cathedral. The interior is notable for the tromp l'oeil effects in the main nave by Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709). His most famous work is the dome effect in St Ignacio in Rome - possibly the greatest piece of illusionistic painting ever achieved. Therefore it is great to see his dome here at the Jesuit church painted on a flat surface! Almost unbelievable but this is kind of effect is a key element in some Baroque buildings He also integrates his painting of the Assumption into the architecture of the building and ensures it is lit by cunning narrow window openings. Alas I was unaware of the authorship of these masterpieces when last I visited earlier in 2017, We shall return. The photos are ours except for the two from Wiki Media Commons.

Pozzo's dome. Photo from Wiki Media Commons
Assumption behind high altar by Pozzo from Wiki Media Commons

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

St Michaelis Hamburg

Last chorus from JS Bach St John Passion

The "Michel" is the most famous church and landmark in Hamburg. Its 436 foot high spire makes sure of that. This Baroque version of the church on this site was begun in the 1750s after a major lightning strike destroyed the previous one in 1750. The architects were Johann Leonhard Prey  and Ernst Georg Sonnin.Then there was a major fire in 1906 followed by a replica rebuild in 1912 and destruction in the Second World War. Therefore what we saw in December 2014 was a modern reconstruction in the original 1750 Baroque style. The huge pillar free nave seats 2500. The white and gold decorations are uplifting, particularly as there was a large choir and orchestra rehearsing in the gallery. No idea what it was but it was one of those heavenly moments : pity my little video below  is so poor in quality but it gives a flavour...There are no less than 5 organs in the church! It is possible to go up the tower and remarkably we did not do it. We are the veterans of so many towers (Cologne, Prague etc etc) and I read that it is amazing so maybe we shall return. I am so pleased that I have been in the city where Georg Philip Telemann was the Musical fountain head. Apparently CPE Bach is buried here. I missed that : he is much more highly regarded and recorded in Germany.