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"Biber meets Vejvanovský - Trumpet Music at the Court of Kromeríž"

Jean-François Madeuf, trumpeta, hornb
The Rossetti Players
Dir: Barbara Konrad

rec: Sept 18 - 20, 2018, Vienna, Franziskaner Kirche
Accent - ACC 24383 (© 2022) (50'43")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

anon: Sonata ŕ 4; anon (R.P.F.G.): Sonatina ŕ 3a; anon (?Pavel Josef VEJVANOVSKÝ, 1633-1693): Sonata da caccia con un cornub Antonio BERTALI (1605-1669): Sonata ŕ 5; Heinrich Ignaz Franz BIBER (1644-1704): Sonata ŕ 6 (C 109)a; Sonata IV ŕ 5 (C 117)a; Sonata X ŕ 5 (C 123)a; Trombet- und musikalischer Taffeldienst ŕ 4 (C 76)a; Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667): Ricercare II (FbWV 402)c; Pavel Josef VEJVANOVSKÝ: Sonata ŕ 4 'Be mollis'a

Barbara Konrad, violin; Marrie Mooij, violin, viola; Sylvestre Vergez, Boyana Nyanalovska, viola; Magdalena Schauer, violone; Eugčne Michelangeli, harpsichord, organc

The 17th century saw not only the development of the violin into one of the most revered instruments, for which composers wrote increasingly virtuosic music, but also the emancipation of the trumpet from a purely military instrument into a serious participant in 'art music'. The disc under review here offers an interesting confrontation of the two instruments, which were used in ensemble on equal footing. That may be surprising, considering the nature of the trumpet. It is in this respect that the use of historical instruments is particularly important, as the modern valved trumpet is too loud to be used in chamber music with only a small ensemble of strings. It was rather developed to star in solo concertos or play its part in a large symphony orchestra. The repertoire on the present disc can only be performed with historical instruments.

This disc not only brings together two instruments, but also two composers, who were among their most prominent representatives and who were closely connected. Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber was from Bohemia, Vejvanovský from Moravia; both regions were part of the Holy Roman Empire. For a number of years they were colleagues when they were in the service of Prince-Bishop Karl Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn, who was an important patron of the arts and spent much money to create a musical establishment of high calibre. Even after Biber settled in Salzburg, the two composers seem to have remained in contact.

The programme opens with a piece by Biber, which one could call 'hybrid', as it refers to two different musical environments. The first part of the title, Trombet(dienst), which means 'required service', refers to the traditional military role of the trumpet: "In times of war, every movement of a cavalry regiment was co-ordinated by the sound of the trumpet. The signal for boute-selle (the order to position the saddle and to mount the horse) (...) is the one 'to use when decamping is required', as the scholar Marin Mersenne wrote in 1636 in his Harmonie Universelle" (Jean-François Madeuf in the liner-notes). The Intrada is for trumpet solo and depicts this function of the trumpet. The remaining seven movements are for strings and include imitations of the trumpet. This is music to be played during meals, as the second part of the title, musikalischer Taffeldienst, indicates.

Biber is also the composer of the two sonatas taken from the collection Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes of 1676, scored for five to eight instruments. The two sonatas performed here include a part for trumpet, which is joined by violin and three violas. The instruments are treated equally here, and this requires a perfect balance, which is achieved thanks to the use of period instruments. Even so, in the Sonata IV Biber singles out the trumpet in that in the opening movement it plays in ternary rhythm, in opposition to the strings playing in binary rhythm. The Sonata ŕ 6 is part of the archive of Kromeriz and is scored for trumpet, two violins, two violas, violone and organ. It is a battaglia but in name, and this explains why the trumpet part has the addition 'solo'. The fact that the organ is specified - rather than just basso continuo - also contributes to the character of this piece.

Given that this disc is devoted to Biber and Vajvanovský, it is a bit disappointing that the latter's contribution is confined to just one piece. The Sonata ŕ 4 'Be mollis' is one of his most famous pieces, Madeuf states in the booklet. I can't remember having heard it, but that may be due to the fact that it seems to have been recorded mostly on modern instruments. Only with period instruments the composer's intentions can be realised, as Madeuf points out. Considering the technical nature of his argument, it seems best to quote him. "The special feature of this piece is the 'unnatural' use of the natural trumpet (illustration of the scale), in adition to the typically used harmonics of the natural trumpet, and of which four (B flat', F/F sharp'', A'' and B flat'') are not of a very equal intonation. Vejvanovský employs 'artificial notes' which are very difficult to deliver as well (A', B', C sharp'', E flat''), which then allows the instrument to be sounded in the unusual key of G minor instead of the normal key of C major (trumpet scale)." The scoring of this piece is for trumpet and violin, both in a solo role, two violins and basso continuo.

The remaining pieces are by other composers, some of which are comparable to those by Biber and Vejvanovský, whereas others are included to put the two composers into their historical context. The anonymous Sonata ŕ 3, which is signed R.P.F.G. (a composer who apparently is impossible to identify), is scored for trumpet and violins. Interestingly, the trumpet part can be played by a violin. Madeuf states that this can be explained from the fact that not that many trumpeters at the time may have been able to play in the high register as required in this piece.

The Sonata da caccia con un cornu has been preserved without the name of the composer, but may be from the pen of Vejvanovský. It dates from the 1680s and is the very first piece for a horn in history. It is accompanied by two violins, two violas, violone and harpsichord. A piece like this reflects the importance of the hunt in aristocratic circles.

Jean-François Madeuf is a specialist in the playing of natural trumpet and natural horn without any modern additions, such as holes. The sound these instruments produce is clearly different from 'compromise' instruments as they are mostly used today. The importance of this relatively recent development cannot be overrated. It works wonders in this repertoire, and results in a perfect balance between the trumpet and the strings. The performances are of the highest order, and I cannot but strongly recommend this disc to anyone interested in this repertoire and/or historical instruments. It is to be hoped that more of Vejvanovský's oeuvre, in which the trumpet takes a central place, is going to be recorded with truly historical instruments.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

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Jean-François Madeuf

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