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"Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer and the Recorder in the Low Countries"

Erik Bosgraaf, recordera; Francesco Corti, harpsichord

rec: Nov 26 - 29, 2018, Burgum (NL), Kruiskerk
Brilliant Classics - 95907 (© 2019) (79'57")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Joseph Hector FIOCCO (1703-1741): Première Suite (adagio - allegro - andante - vivace) [4]; Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764): Sonata in G, op. 9,7a [6]; Jean-Baptiste LOEILLET 'de Gant' (1688-c1720): Sonata in a minor, op. 1,1a [3]; Sonata in G, op. 1,3 (largo)a [3]; Sybrandus VAN NOORDT (1659-1705): Sonata in Fa [1]; Andreas PARCHAM (1643-1712): Sonata in Ga [2]; Johann Christian SCHICKHARDT (1682-1762): Sonata in E, op. 30,7a [5]; Unico Wilhelm VAN WASSENAER (1692-1766): Sonata I in Fa; Sonata II in g minora; Sonata III in g minora

Sources: [1] Sybrandt van Noordt, Sonate per il cimbalo appropriate al flauto & violino, 1690; [2] Estienne Roger, ed., 40 airs anglois à un dessus & une basse, 1701/02; [3] Jean-Baptiste Loeillet 'de Gant', XII Sonates à une Flute & basse Continue, op. 1, c1710; [4] Joseph Hector Fiocco, Pièces de clavecin, op.1, 1730; [5] Johann Christian Schickhardt, L'alphabet de la musique, op. 30, c1731; [6] Jean-Marie Leclair, Quatrième livre de sonates, op. 9, 1743/R;

The recorder was by far the most popular instrument among amateurs across Europe from the late 16th to the mid-18th century. It is not surprising, then, that it was widely played in the Low Countries, where music making at home and among social gatherings was probably more popular than anywhere else. There were few aristocratic courts and music did not play a significant role in church, and therefore the market for music was dominated by pieces which were within the grasp of amateurs.

The most famous collection of recorder music was Der Fluyten Lusthof by Jacob van Eyck. Another collection of instrumental pieces, many of which could be played on the recorder was published under the title of 't Uitnement Kabinet, which included music from across Europe. The present disc is largely devoted to music of the 18th century. At that time the recorder was in the process of being overshadowed by the transverse flute. However, the recorder continued to remain popular among amateurs, which explains why many pieces intended for the violin or the transverse flute, could be played at the recorder as well, as was often indicated on the title pages. That goes especially for French music.

In comparison with the 17th century, nothing had changed with regard to the international character of the repertoire. Amsterdam was a centre of music printing. A number of collections of concertos by Vivaldi, for instance, were printed there. Such editions were intended for the international market, but the fact that domestic music-making was so popular in the Netherlands explains why the Amsterdam printers often published collections of pieces which could be played on the recorder. The present disc includes only a small number of pieces by Dutch composers. Most items are from composers from France and Germany, some of whom lived and worked for a time in the Netherlands.

The core of the programme consists of the three sonatas by Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer, an aristocratic lover of music, who in 1979 was identified as the composer of the six Concerti armonici, until then attributed to various composers, including Pergolesi and Ricciotti. Those concertos are written in the Italian style, as are the three recorder sonatas, which are all in the Corellian four-movement form.

There is some difference between the music scene in the northern and southern parts of the Netherlands: the latter was Catholic, and therefore composers wrote music for the liturgy. It was ruled from Brussels, and the court played an important role in musical matters, including performances of oratorios and operas. Whereas the music scene deteriorated during the 17th century, mainly as a result of the poor state of the economy, the early 18th century saw a rebirth of musical culture. Among the main figures were the members of the Loeillet family, some of whom made a career elsewhere, such as John Loeillet in London, and Jean-Baptiste Loeillet 'de Gant' in France. The latter published four collections of recorder sonatas, which were all printed in Amsterdam. From the opus 1 we get here the first sonata and one movement from the third.

Jean-Marie Leclair was one of the most prominent composers of the early 18th century in France. The growing acceptance of the Italian style makes its mark in his oeuvre. For some years he worked in the Netherlands, which is the reason he is included here. The Sonata in G is one of a set of sonatas for violin. Some of Leclair's sonatas can be played on the transverse flute, and that goes for this sonata as well. Erik Bosgraaf plays the voice flute here, whose range allows for a performance without the need of transposition.

Germany is represented by Parcham and Schickhard. The former is often considered an English composer, probably because his only recorder sonata was included in an edition of 40 Airs Anglois, printed by Estienne Roger. However, he was of German descent, and born in Danzig (today Gdansk in Poland). He lived for most of his life in the Netherlands, and was buried in Amsterdam. The Sonata in G is in four movements, but the third consists of a quick succession of sections of contrasting tempo and character. Unusual in form is also the Sonata in E by Johann Christian Schickhardt, who was from Brunswick, where he received his musical training at the court. He lived and worked in the Netherlands, England and probably also Scandinavia. At the end of his life he was attached to the University of Leyden, where he also died. The sonata included here comprises six movements; only the second, called siciliano, is in a slow tempo.

Parcham's piece is one of the earliest in the programme. The disc ends with a piece by his contemporary Sybrandus van Noordt. The Sonata in F was published in an edition of four pieces from his pen in 1690. It is in three movements: vivace, adagio, allegro.

In addition to sonatas for the recorder we hear four harpsichord pieces by Joseph Hector Fiocco. He was another important figure in the southern Netherlands, son of the Italian composer Pietro Antonio Fiocco. He worked as choirmaster in Antwerp and then in Brussels. In 1730 he published his Pièces de clavecin op. 1, which includes 24 pieces, largely in French style. However, the first suite ends with four movements in the form of a sonata. These show his Italian roots.

The recorder sonatas by Van Wassenaer have been recorded before, but are certainly not that well known. Parcham's piece is also common stuff, as is Leclair's sonata, although there are probably only a few or even no recordings on the recorder. It does quite well on the voice flute. Loeillet's four collections are an important source for recorder players, but I am not sure if all of them are available on disc. They definitely should be. It is interesting that Bosgraaf plays the Sonata in a minor on the bass recorder. This instrument is rarely used as a solo instrument, and this recording shows why. It produces a rather soft sound, and that has consequences for the accompaniment. It seems that Francesco Corti plays the harpsichord here with the lid closed. This results in a muted sound, which creates a perfect balance with the recorder.

Bosgraaf is a virtuosic player, whose performances are always energetic. Sometimes he tends to go overboard, for instance in his choice of tempi and the addition of ornamentation. Here he behaves almost impeccably. Some movements in Schickhardt's sonata are played very fast, but that seems justified. Bosgraaf makes a nice difference between the two ensuing allegros in the middle of this sonata. There is just one issue: in the opening movement of Van Noordt's sonata it was decided to add some chirping. I don't like this kind of gimmick, and the music doesn't need it. In a time when the use of a string bass seems the rule, and the participation of a plucked instrument almost inevitable, it is nice that the performers have confined themselves to the harpsichord for the basso continuo. The two artists often collaborate, and Corti is again an excellent partner, who also delivers a fine performance of the pieces by Fiocco.

In short, this is a delightful disc which will appeal not only to recorder aficionados.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Erik Bosgraaf
Francesco Corti

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