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Romanus WEICHLEIN (1652 - 1706): Encaenia Musices, 1695

[I] "Opus 1, 1695"
Ensemble Masques
Dir: Olivier Fortin
rec: Sept 5 - 8, 2014, Laval en Brie (F), Église Saint-Laurent
Alpha - 212 (© 2015) (61'01")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Georg BÖHM (1661-1731): Capriccio in Da; Johann Caspar KERLL (1627-1693): Ciaccona in C, arr. for 2 harpsichordsab; Johann KUHNAU (1660-1722): Sonata VI in B flat (ciaccona, arr. for 2 harpsichords)ab; Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704): Passacaglia in g minora; Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706): Ciaccona in d minor, arr. for 2 harpsichordsab; Romanus WEICHLEIN: Sonata II in g minor; Sonata III in a minor; Sonata VI in F; Sonata IX in d minor; Sonata XI in b minor

Sophie Gent, Tuomo Suni, violin; Kathleen Kajioka, viola; Mélisande Corriveau, viola da gamba; Benoît Vanden Bemden, violone; Olivier Fortin, harpsichord (soloa)
with: Skip Sempé, harpsichordb

[II] Encaenia Musices
capella vitalis berlin
rec: Feb 4 - 7, 2013, Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Lindenkirche
Raumklang - RK 3401 (© 2015) (68'18"))
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Canon über das Post-Hörnl; 2 Duets for 2 trumpets; Intrada for 2 trumpets; Sonata I à 8; Sonata III à 6; Sonata IV à 6; Sonata VI à 6; Sonata VII à 6; Sonata X à 6; Sonata XI à 6; Sonata XII à 8

Helen Barsby, Michael Dallmann, trumpet; Almut Schlicker, violin; Ulrike Wildenhof, violin, viola; Daniela Braun, violin, viola, tenor viola; Anne Schumann, violin, tenor viola; Andreas Vetter, cello; Jochen Schneider, bassoon; Friederike Däublin, violone; Gösta Funck, harpsichord; Martin Knizia, organ

Parts Weichlein

It is likely that few music lovers are familiar with the name of Romanus Weichlein. He was born as Andreas Franz Weichlein in Linz from parents who were both musicians and who gave him a good musical education. He received his first musical training at the abbey of Lambach and entered the Benedictine Order in 1671. At the profession of his vows he received the monastic name of Romanus. He went to Salzburg to study at the University where he became a doctor of philosophy in 1673. Here he also got acquainted with Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. He returned to Lambach, and later became chaplain and musical director of the Benedictine convent of Nonnberg in Salzburg.

Only two collections of his music were published. In 1695 his Op. 1 came from the press, under the title Encaenia musices, meaning literally "musical dedication". In this case this has to be interpreted as "musical gift". In his preface the composer dedicates the collection to emperor Leopold I, "in the firm hope that they will be used in his court chapel". He adds that they can be played both in sacred and in secular surroundings. In 1702 he published a collection of seven masses, Parnassus ecclesiastico-musicus, as his Op. 2. In addition works from his pen have been preserved in manuscript.

The sonatas are scored for two violins, two violas and basso continuo. In three sonatas these are joined by two trumpets. The track-list of the Alpha disc omits any mention of movements, unlike the Raumklang production and the booklets to the two recordings of these sonatas by Ars Antiqua Austria (Symphonia, 1994/95 and 2008 respectively). Often the movements are not strictly separated, but follow each other attacca as was common in sonatas from the first half of the 17th century. Several 'movements' are divided into sections of a contrasting character. The Sonata IX in d minor, for instance, ends with a sequence of adagio - presto - adagio - allegro - grave.

For some music-lovers a complete recording may be too much of a good thing, especially for those who have never heard any of his music. They are served well by these two discs which both include extracts from the collection. The two ensembles follow different paths.

The Ensemble Masques offers more than the title of their disc suggests. As the track-list shows the ciacona and the passacaglia take a major place in their programme. That is no coincidence: these two bassi ostinati also appear in four of Weichlein's sonatas, three of which are included in the programme. The fourth is the Sonata I which is omitted, because it includes parts for two trumpets, but was recorded by the capella vitalis berlin.

The use of ground basses, such as passacaglia and ciaccona, dates from the 16th century, but was especially popular in the stile nuovo which emerged in Italy around 1600. Part of it was the introduction of the basso continuo which became the foundation of almost any composition, either vocal or instrumental. Another feature was instrumental virtuosity, especially for cornett and violin. These developments resulted in a large repertoire of pieces in which one or more treble instruments weave an increasingly virtuosic web over a repeated bass pattern.

The inclusion of such ground basses in three of Weichlein's sonatas induced the Ensemble Masques to add separate pieces with a ground bass by other composers. These pieces were all scored for keyboard; three of them have been transcribed for two keyboards. That is very well done, but I don't see any reason for such transcriptions. The only piece whose title does not indicate that it is in fact based on a basso ostinato is the Capriccio in D by Georg Böhm. That can be explained by the fact that the ground bass is only used in one section of this piece, which also includes a fugue.

The capella vitale berlin included two sonatas with trumpets in its programme: the Sonata I opens it and the Sonata XII closes it. In addition we hear three pieces for two trumpets; two of them are called Duett, and one has the title of Intrada. The latter title is probably an invention of the performers; in the track-lists of Ars Antiqua's recordings of 1994 and 1995 there is no piece with that title. There the duets are numbered; here they are not, which makes it hard to identify them. The programme also includes a piece which has been preserved in manuscript: the Canon über das Post-Hörnl. It was a birthday present for Weichlein's friend and patron Abbot Severin Blass on the occasion of his 35th birthday in 1684. The canon is a musical description of Blass's coat of arms, a quartered escutcheon charged with two posthorns and two horses. Notable are the tremoli in this piece for four violins.

These two recordings can be recommended without reservation. Although the Sonatas III and VI appear in both programmes these discs are complementary rather than competitive. The playing of the Ensemble Masques is a little more robust, and the contrasts between the sections are slightly more pronounced. In comparison the sound of the capella vitalis berlin is a bit more intimate. I have enjoyed both discs; they are worthwhile additions to the catalogue.

Weichlein deserves to be better known and these discs do their part.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

Relevant links:

capella vitalis berlin
Ensemble Masques

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