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"Treasures of the German Baroque"

Radio Antiqua

rec: March 2 - 5, 2015, Jujurieux, Espace culturel C.J. Bonnet
Ambronay - AMY305 (© 2015) (59'28")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giuseppe Antonio BRESCIANELLO (1690-1758): Concerto a tre for violin, bassoon and bc in g minor; Charles DIEUPART (1667-1740): Suite for voice flute and bc No. 2 in D; ?Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755) / ?Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Sonata for violin and bc in c minor (BWV 1024); Antonin REICHENAUER (c1694-1730): Concerto for violin, cello, bassoon and bc in g minoer (Rk 18); Christoph SCHAFFRATH (1709-1763) Trio sonata for violin, bassoon and bc in B flat (CSWV E,20); Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Trio sonata for violin, bassoon and bc in F (TWV 42,F1)

Isabel Favilla, recorder, bassoon; Lucia Giraudo, violin; Petr Hamouz, cello; Giulio Quirici, theorbo; Claudio Barduco Ribeiro, harpsichord

The French label Ambronay regularly releases discs with recordings by young ensembles. This is the result of an European cooperation project under the name eemerging which - according to the booklet - "is the natural continuation of the Young Ensemble Residences developed since 2009 at the Centre culturel de rencontre d'Ambronay". Each year the most promising ensembles are selected and are offered professional training and assistence in building an international career through concerts and promotion. After three years of support the best ensembles have the opportunity to make their first professional recording. The present disc is the result of Radio Antiqua being selected.

The members are all former students of the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, and come from various countries across the world: Argentina, Brazil, Italy and the Czech Republic. The ensemble was founded in 2012. For their debut disc they have selected an interesting bouquet of chamber music which they present under the title 'Treasures of the German Baroque'. Some may raise their eyebrows reading this, considering the names of some composers. Telemann, Pisendel and Schaffrath were German by birth, but Reichenauer was from Bohemia, Brescianello from Italy and Dieupart from France. What is German about them?

In the case of Brescianello that is pretty simple. He was born in Bologna and worked in Venice when the Elector of Bavaria brought him to Munich where he played as a violinist in the court chapel. In 1716 he succeeded Johann Christoph Pez as musique directeur, maître des concerts de la chambre at the Württemberg court in Stuttgart. Reichenauer is a different case. He was from Bohemia and seems not to have left his country; for some time he was in the service of Count Morzin to whom Vivaldi dedicated his Four Seasons. The reason that his Concerto in g minor has been included is that it is part of the collection put together by Johann Georg Pisendel, first violinist of the Dresden court chapel. That collection is now preserved in the famous Schrank II in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek. It is a concerto da camera as we find it in the oeuvre of Vivaldi. It is modelled after the Corellian sonata da chiesa. The second movement is especially delightful, and the ensuing adagio is quite dramatic. Brescianello's Concerto a 3 is also such a concerto da camera, albeit in three movements. The opening allegro includes theatrical elements.

Pisendel not only collected music, he also wrote music of his own, largely for his own instrument. However, that oeuvre is rather small: composing seems not to have been his priority. The Sonata in c minor (BWV 1024) has been included in Schmieder's catalogue of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, but has come down to us in a copy by Pisendel. It was only in the 19th century that this sonata in four movements was attributed to Bach. Nowadays it is generally considered not authentic, and it has been suggested that it may be a composition by Pisendel himself. It has not been possible to establish the sonata's authorship as yet. Identification is quite complicated as there are strong similarities between Pisendel's works and those by Bach.

Telemann was the most famous composer in Germany in his time, and he was also a personal friend of Pisendel. It is hardly surprising that he is well represented in the latter's collection. The Sonata in F is typical for its unlikely combination of instruments: violin and bassoon. It belongs to the lesser-known part of Telemann's compositional output. It is from a collection which he published in 1718, when he was Kapellmeister at the Barfüsserkirche in Frankfurt. Christoph Schaffrath is of a later generation; he was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's colleague at Frederick the Great's court in Berlin where he acted as court harpsichordist. In recent years especially his compsitions for obbligato harpsichord and one melody instrument have received some attention. The Trio sonata in B flat is a more 'conventional' piece as it has the traditional form of a baroque trio sonata, but it is written in the galant idiom. It is notable that the bassoon opens the two fast movements.

The only composer not mentioned yet is Charles Dieupart. He was from France, but settled in England. His six suites for harpsichord, also published in alternative scorings, are his best-known compositions. What is especially notable is the texture of his suites. Dieupart was the first French composer to publish his harpsichord pieces under the title of suites rather than pièces de clavecin. Every suite opens with an ouverture rather than a prélude. Whereas in French collections of harpsichord pieces the performer could pick and choose the pieces as he liked or the pieces were ordered according to key with a different number of movements, Dieupart's suites follow a structured pattern. In every suite the overture is followed by six dances: allemande, courante, sarabande, gavotte, menuet and gigue. Only the Suite No. 2 in D derives from this as the menuet is replaced by a passepied. This kind of suites was more common in Germany than in France, and this has made Denis Mortier, in his liner-notes, suggest "a German influence on this French emigré composer in London". It is the first time I have read this and I wonder whether there is any historical evidence suggesting German influence. Is it too far-fetched to suggest that he may have been influenced by the harpsichord suites of Froberger? After all, he had visited Paris and therefore his music was known in France.

Having listened to this disc I can understand that Radio Antiqua was selected to make a recording. Its credentials are already respectable. At the International Handel Festival in Göttingen it won the Jury Prize and the Audience Prize. It has also appeared at other early music festivals across Europe. The ensemble deserves praise for the way the programme has been put together. The pieces are logically connected and the most common pieces from the baroque period have been avoided. I have already mentioned that Telemann's sonata is one of his lesser-known. Schaffrath, Reichenauer and Brescianello are certainly not household names. Dieupart is better known, but his suites are not that often played. The only piece which is fairly familiar is the Pisendel/Bach sonata. That is also the only piece whose performance I find a little disappointing. Lucia Giraudo is certainly a fine violinist, but her interpretation is a little too straight-forward. I would have liked a stronger differentiation between good and bad notes and more varied tone palette.

However, on the whole I enjoyed this disc. I particularly liked the engaging performances of the last movement from Schaffrath's sonata and the first allegro from Reichenauer. These are good examples of this ensemble's approach to their selected repertoire. This disc makes a promising debut and I hope that we will hear more from Radio Antiqua.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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