CD: Conserva me Domine (with Terry Wey, Countertenor)
„With Margit Übellacker we have a subtle soloist at hand, ideally able to reveal the delightful tonal qualities of the salterio. Terry Wey shows himself on this CD to be a champion of his Fach as well as of the late baroque repertoire. The two soloists are most happily accompanied by the Ensemble La Gioia Armonica, founded by Margit Übellacker and Jürgen Banholzer. ... There is also a motet by Giambattista Martini (1707-1784), the Abbé from Bologna known to the reader of Mozart biographies as that master of counterpoint whose severe judgement could be pleased by the child prodigy: his music has often been reproached of beeing shallow and uninspired, but nothing of the kind is to be perceived here – in this motet of a thoroughly dignified inflection he makes effective use of the salterio, otherwise rather an instrument of the entertaining sphere.“
(Detmar Huchting, 10.05.2017, Klassik Heute)
„All this results in a very fine disc for curious ears.“
(Olivier Eterradossi, may 2017, www.clicmusique.com/)
On our concert at Ton Koopman’s Festival Itinéraire Baroque en Périgord Vert 2014
The programme of La Gioia Armonica consisted of Bach’s Sonatas BWV 1021 and 1019, the part of the violin being taken by Margit Übellacker on the dulcimer: She worked wonders with her precision of touch and with her masterly control of tone and resonance. Just as remarkable was the way Jürgen Banholzer projected the sounds of the chest organ into the space of the dormitory, notably in the huge solo of BWV 1019 (middle movement Allegro), especially hard to play on a keyboard with such a light action. The result was an enchantment, almost a dream, due to the gentleness of the instruments – but what a presence!
(Michel Roubinet at http://www.concertclassic.com/)
CD: Johann Georg Reutter, Portus felicitatis
"19th century historians claimed he [Reutter] was 'without spirit', 'of little artistic value', representing a nadir between the peaks of Baroque and Classical eras. Judging from this wonderfully revelatory disc, nothing could be further from the truth. ... The singers here - soprano Monika Mauch and mezzo-soprano Stanislava Jirků - are beautifully matched, fresh-toned and virtually vibrato-less. ... Four arias, five motets and two instrumental movements are intimately recorded. Breathtakingly lovely ... ."
(George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine, April 2014)
"Most astonishing are numerous solos and obbligato arias spotlighting the dulcimer, which (under the name salterio or pantaleon) enjoyed a brief vogue in Reutter’s day. Its hammered strings provide a shimmering, ethereal sound, elegantly rendered by Margit Übellacker. The two vocal soloists are top-notch; soprano Monika Mauch displays pure-voiced limpidity, mezzo-soprano Stanislava Jirků lends a beefier but still well-centered tone, and the two work seamlessly together in several duets. Jürgen Banholzer leads La Gioia Armonica, a small period-instrument band, in loving performances that give a forgotten musical notable his due."
(James M. Keller, Santa Fe New Mexican - The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture, 7.4.2014)
"Both the instrument and the composer on this fascinating CD are little-known … . The sacred and secular songs are being interpreted with intimacy and noble simplicity by Monika Mauch with her flawless soprano and by her equally accomplished colleague, the Czech contralto Stanislava Jirku. ... The album which at last rehabilitates Reutter with doubled rarities has a title that is brilliantly chosen: Portus Felicitatis is really a haven of bliss for all lovers of classical music off the beaten track of mainstream."
(Dirk Kruse, Bavarian Radio, 7.2.2014)
"A new CD of the ensemble La Gioia Armonica combines arias and sacred motets by Reutter, which prove him to be a superior and sensitive composer between the Baroque and the Classical idiom. Margit Übellacker ... plays ... with manifold nuances and great expression. The arias are sung by Monika Mauch with good diction and a fine sense of phrasing. In the motets another voice is to be heard, that of contralto Stanislava Jirku, the two singers blending well with each other ... . The small orchestra of La Gioia Armonica plays with great commitment and thus gives Johann Georg Reutter a worthy recommendation."
(Bernhard Schrammek, kulturradio RBB, 10.12.2013)
"The music I have heard on this monograph by Banholzer is very pleasing … . Soprano Monika Mauch has once more given proof of being an extraordinary singer, whose true merits have not yet sufficiently been grasped neither by the critics nor by the general public. Mezzosoprano Stanislava Jirků … shines on the same fine scale and confirms that she is a voice with a future closely to be followed. Übellacker and the dulcimer: at once arresting and appealing."
(Eduardo Torrico, el arte dela fuga, 23.12.2013)
"The recording highlights particularly the extraordinary sound of the dulcimer …, a close relative of the cimbalom, in vogue in Central Europe during the Baroque era. Margit Übellacker is its indisputable specialist."
(Yvan Beuvard, forumopera, 20.12.2013)
On various concerts:
"In the Suonata á Saltero e Basso Reinhild Waldek, a specialist in the field of historical harps, joined with the sound of her instrument. The audience witnessed the interesting contrast between the two stringed instruments, one struck, the other plucked, and could enjoy the absolutely homogeneous playing of the trio. While harp and chest organ were accompanying, Margit Übellacker unleashed fireworks on the psaltery. ... The enthusiastic audience was completely satisfied.”
(Brigitte Gaiser, Taunus Zeitung, 18.9.2012)
"... a festival programme for 'quiet pleasure-seekers'. ... The chest organ and the 'singing' dulcimer come surprisingly close to one another’s sound worlds. And yet one heard intuitive differences and fine contrasts. … Übellacker and Banholzer allow clear insights into the disciplined marvels of the early eighteenth-century Leipzig cantor. Organ and dulcimer complemented one another in every phrase, chord, melody, in every part of the score. Having been on tour internationally for several years, the duo has brilliantly made its home in this unique sphere. It seemed as if the two of them enjoyed the 'quiet pleasure' as much as anyone in the audience. The encore – after strong blasts of applause – looked towards the southern neighbour of Italy. There too composers wrote for the dulcimer: very appealing, very melodious, full of effects."
(Hans-Jörg Loskill, Der Westen, January 2011)
"Margit Übellacker on the dulcimer convinced ... with manifold tone colours, fragile or undulating, vigorous or penetrating. ... The Trio La Gioia Armonica
offered ... extremely sensitive ensemble playing. Irene Klein explored all the sonorous resources of the viol and Jürgen Banholzer bound together ... the sounds of the expressived instruments. ...
The opening concert of this year’s Pentecost Music Festival ended with enthusiastic applause and two encores (one a transcription by Bach of a movement from a violin concerto by
(Fuldaer Zeitung, 2.6.2009)
"Today’s musicians were also virtuosos, but they were convincing above all through their perceptive understanding of baroque style."
(Liane Bornholdt, Mageburger Volksstimme, 2.2.2009)
"The public in the palace chapel was spell-bound by the ensemble “La Gioia Armonica” on Saturday. ... a virtuosic and hushed concert. The public was very enthusiastic."
(Badische Zeitung, 17.6.2008)
"Margit Übellacker let the hammers sway so skilfully over the strings of the fortepiano’s forerunner that she achieved unexpected emotional depth – not least through the suggestion of polyphony. The original performing style of the ensemble “La Gioia Armonica” was very much to the taste of the public. With his well-rounded countertenor voice Jürgen Banholzer sang top notes, coloraturas and ornaments in high registers, as if this was for a singer the most natural thing in the world. Felix Knecht launched fireworks from allegro movements and offered an enthralling leggiero on the gut strings of his baroque cello."
(Ute van der Sanden, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung Halle, 29.9.2007)
"The soloists then combined the contrasting possibilities of dulcimer and organ in Bach’s sonata BWV 1019 creating a blissful harmony, very much in accordance with the name of their ensemble. They united and narrowly intertwined not only melody and harmony, but also emotion and structural thinking, in a sense subjectivity and objectivity."
(Susanne Eckstein, Pfullinger Stadtanzeiger, 24.7.2006)
CD: Antonio Caldara, Sonate ed Arie
"... magnificently sung by the fine countertenor Jurgen Banholzer, whose voice is ideally suited to them ... La Gioia Armonica use a tenor dulcimer to produce a delightful range of charming colours and intriguing textural effects ..."
(Early Music, May 2007)
"The excellent, recently-started Ramée label ... issues here an exhilaratingly-hypnotic reading of a trio of cantatas plus other vocal pieces and instrumental works by Antonio Caldara, written between 1700 and 1732. What attracts especial and additional attention is the alluring presence of the pantaleon (a double dulcimer) as a solo instrument as well as the warmly-passionate voice of countertenor Jürgen Banholzer who, moreover, directs the terrific ensemble La Gioia Armonica ."
(Diverdi, Madrid, Spain)
"The male alto solo (Jürgen Banholzer) is as good in this repertoire as any I’ve heard, and the accompanying group ... are stylish and their interpretations of two cantatas, two cello sonatas and two arias from Viennese oratorios, are thoroughly enjoyable. ... Übellacker is a true virtuoso“
(Early Music Review, June 2006)
"The aesthetic result is really amazing. This rather extraordinary performance is given an even greater interest by the brilliant interpretation of a young ensemble, that could not have started its career in any better way."
(Maricarmen Gómez, Goldberg nº 39, April 2006)
"... a special discovery: music for the Pantaleon. …
Perfectly blending with the silvery sound of the dulcimer ist the alto of Jürgen Banholzer, who brings late baroque expressions of the soul to an intimate life."
"… with truly exuberant energy … Jürgen Banholzer interprets the arias and cantatas with an exceptional emotional honesty, without ever seeking any cheap or superfluous effect. His timbre is very pleasing and fits wonderfully with this repertoire which he masters brilliantly."
(pizzicato, Luxemburg, February 2006)
"Ramée Records have just released a magnificent CD titeled 'Antonio Caldara – Cantate, Sonate ed Arie'. It features superb compositions by the master that are interpreted with what one may call 'heavenly perfection'. ... The sublime voice of German couter-tenor Jürgen Banholzer brings a dream-like touch to the CD. One of the most gifted singers of his generation Banholzer is in complete mastery of his art. ... – this is the sound of classical music as pure as it can get."
(The Jordan Times, 5.2.2006)
"The instrument which comes closest to [the Pantaleon] is the Salzburg tenor dulcimer which the lively and energetic Margit Übellacker plays with a radiating finesse. ... The gravity of Emilia Gliozzi’s violoncello and the full and shining alto of Jürgen Banholzer emphasize the nuances and the vivid exoticism of this music."
(Ramifications, Isabelle Françaix, Brussels, 14.11.2005)
"Margit Übellacker emerges as a true virtuoso ... .
Aside from the interest of an exotic instrument, the main focus of attention is alto Jürgen Banholzer, a young singer of rare musical intelligence and a truly sensitive approach to what he is singing. The voice itself is intrinsically appealing and fluently produced without straining after effect, making him an ideal interpreter of a composer whose great gift was an ability to write melodic lines of distinction that fall graciously for the singer.
... a splendid singer ... . In sum, then, this is a highly enjoyable recording, offering as it does excellent performances of rare and thoroughly rewarding repertoire."
(Brian Robins, Fanfare)