musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Music at the courts of Berlin and Bayreuth

[I] "Frederick II and his Musicians"
Musical Delight

rec: Feb 15, 2008, Bremen-Mahndorf, St. Nikolaikirche
Musicaphon - M 56910 (© 2009) (58'55")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788): Sonata in D (Wq 131 / H 561); Sonata in G (Wq 133 / H 564); Franz BENDA (1709-1789): Sonata in e minor; Sonata in F; FREDERICK II (1712-1786): Sonata in e minor; Johann Joachim QUANTZ (1697-1773): Sonata in B flat (QV 1,162); Christoph SCHAFFRATH (1709-1763): Sonata in g minor (after Sonata for oboe and bc in d minor)

Dorothee Kunst, transverse flute; Susanne Peuker, archlute

[II] "Principe und Principessa" - Flute and lute at the courts of Berlin and Bayreuth
Duo Mignarda

rec: Feb 27, 2006, Nuremberg, Meistersingerhalle* & Sept 2 - 4, 2010, Friedberg, Burgkirche (Musikstudio Bork)
Trefoil - 2.002 (© 2011) (72'43")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & English liner-notes

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH: Sonata in D (Wq 131 / H 561)ab; Ernst Gottlieb BARON (1696-1760): Sonata in Gab; Paul Charles DURANT (1712-after 1770): Douetto in g minorab; Adam FALCKENHAGEN (1697-1754): Sonata VI in d minor, op. 1,6b; FREDERICK II: Sonata XI in d minorab; Jakob Friedrich KLEINKNECHT (1722-1794): Sonata II in e minorab; Johann Joachim QUANTZ: Fantasia in Ca; Alla francese in Da; WILHELMINE of Bayreuth (1709-1758): Sonata in a minor*abc;

Sabine Dreier, transverse flutea; Johannes Vogt, theorbob; with Irene Hegen, table pianoc

These two discs concentrate on music as it was performed at the courts in Berlin and in Bayreuth. As the disc of the Duo Mignarda suggests there was a connection between these two courts. In Berlin Frederick the Great built up a court chapel to which belonged some of the finest musicians and composers of his time. Some of them he had already contracted when he was Crown Prince and lived in Ruppin and then in Rheinsberg. Frederick had a strong liking for music, and his playing of the transverse flute resulted in large numbers of compositions written for it. Wilhelmine of Bayreuth was his sister, and she also liked music. She had a particular preference for the lute, and they often played together. In 1730 Frederick tried to escape from the authority of his father, but he was captured and imprisoned. In a letter which was smuggled out of prison "Friedrich [Frederick] intensely implores the good times of playing music together with his sister. He courteously switched roles and calls the lute of Wilhelmine “Principe”(the male form) and his flute as “Principessa”(the female form)", Irene Hegen writes in the liner-notes of the disc by the Duo Mignarda. It is this which inspired the title of this disc.

Duo Mignarda plays music by the various composers who worked at the courts of Berlin and Bayreuth respectively, whereas Musical Delight concentrates on the former. It begins its programme with a sonata by Frederick the Great himself. It is - as almost all sonatas on this disc - in three movements, beginning with a slow movement and continuing with two fast movements. It is one of the 121 sonatas for his instrument the Prussian King wrote. Franz Benda was one of the stars of his chapel, and Germany's most prominent violinist of the generation after Pisendel. But it was impossible not to compose music for the flute, and so here we hear some lesser-known pieces from his oeuvre. Christoph Schaffrath worked as harpsichordist, and when Carl Philipp Emanuel joined the Berlin chapel Schaffrath was appointed as harpsichordist of Frederick's other sister, Anna Amalia. Bach also wrote a number of flute sonatas. The inclusion of the Sonata in G is rather strange, as it was written in 1786, when Bach worked in Hamburg. Johann Joachim Quantz played a crucial role at the court of Frederick the Great as he was the King's teacher of the flute. The life-long association with Frederick explains that Quantz's oeuvre is dominated by pieces for the transverse flute. Musical Delights plays one of his many sonatas for flute and bc.

The Duo Mignarda also includes music by Quantz in its programme, but interestingly two items from a lesser-known part of his oeuvre: pieces for flute solo. It is quite possible that these are educational material, maybe for his royal pupil. In 1731 Wilhelmine married Frederick, heir to the throne of the principality of Bayreuth. She immediately appointed architects to build a palace, and in 1748 a new opera house was opened which was one of the largest in Europe. She also aimed at building up a court orchestra. In 1738 it consisted of 17 musicians. Among them was the lute-player Adam Falckenhagen. He also became the lute teacher of Wilhelmine, according to a letter she wrote to her brother in 1732. He died in 1754, and was replaced by Paul Charles Durant. Very little is known about him, and he has no entry in New Grove. His Douetto in g minor is recorded here for the first time - probably even the first time any music by him has been recorded. Whereas in earlier times it was obvious that lute-players were part of any court orchestra, their role diminished since the 1740s. It is due to Wilhelmine's love of the lute that Falckenhagen and later Durant were appointed. But Frederick the Great also recruited a lute-player: Ernst Gottlieb Baron. He entered his service in 1737 and held his post until his death. His presence at the court justifies the realisation of the basso continuo by the archlute in the recording of Musical Delight.

The Duo Magnarda includes two pieces by the main characters of the two discs: Frederick the Great - another flute sonata - and the Sonata in a minor by Wilhelmine. This was certainly not her only composition: she even wrote an opera for performances in her 'own' theatre. The programme begins with the Sonata II in e minor by Jakob Friedrich Kleinknecht. He was, like his brother Johann Stephan, a flautist, and entered the court orchestra in Bayreuth. In 1761 he succeeded Johann Pfeiffer as Kapellmeister.

These two discs nicely complement each other. Both ensembles bring fine performances; in the Sonata in D by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach I prefer Musical Delight's performance. This preference has partly to do with the recording. Duo Mignarda's performances suffer from the quite reverberant space, and the overall sound is a bit muffled. That has nothing to do with the playing, because it is totally absent from the Sonata in a minor by Wilhelmine, which was recorded at a different time and in a different space. But as the repertoire on both discs is partly rather rare, they should be welcomed. There is certainly more to discover, and hopefully both ensembles will have the opportunity to explore this repertoire further. The booklet of the Duo Mignarda disc only includes liner-notes in German; an English translation can be downloaded from the label's site.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

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