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Martin Christian SCHULTZE (18th C): "Trattamento dell'Harmonia - 6 Sinfonias"

Ensemble Klingekunst

rec: Feb 4 - 8, 2018, Vienna, Kollegium Kalksburg
CPO - 555 225-2 (© 2020) (70'34")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Sinfonia I in D; Sinfonia II in G; Sinfonia III in D; Sinfonia IV in F; Sinfonia V in G; Sinfonia VI in c minor

Source: Trattamento dell'Harmonia per sinfonie da camera a quatro istromenti, op. 2, libro I, 1733

Sieglinde Größinger, transverse flute; Dimitris Karakantas, violin; Christoph Urbanetz, viola da gamba; Katarzyna Cichon, cello; Maja Mijatovic, harpsichord

Names like Schultz or Schultze (or Schulz(e)) were very common in Germany in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was the German name of the Praetorius dynasty of organists. From the 18th century, several composers with this name are known, but there is considerable confusion about their identity. There has been much speculation about the composer of a recorder concerto in B flat; it is attributed to both Johann Christian (c1680-1740) and Johann Christoph (1733-1813). In 2015, Raumklang released a recording of recorder sonatas attributed a certain Andreas Heinrich Schultze (1681-1742), whose name seems also to be spelled as Schultzen or Schultsen. Could these composers all have been related in some way with the Schultze, who is the composer of the Sinfonias recorded by the Ensemble Klingekunst?

The Trattamento dell'Harmonia per sinfonie da camera a quatro istromenti ... Opera seconda libro primo was published in 1733 in Paris by François Boivin and Jean-Pantaléonin Leclerc. The title-page mentions 'M.C. Schultze D.B.' as the composer. The initials D.B. may mean "de Berlin" - from Berlin. From the second half of the 18th century until well into the 19th members of a Schultze family were active in the Berlin music scene. The above-mentioned Johann Christoph was one of them. One other collection of pieces by M.C. Schultze is known, a set of six sonatas for transverse flute and basso continuo, published as Opera prima libro primo in 1731. The Sinfonias performed here were dedicated to Comte d'Egmont, which may refer to Procope Charles Nicolas Augustin Léopold Pignatelli. One of his titles was 12th Count of Egmont. He was also the dedicatee of other collections of music for flute, for instance by Jacques-Christophe Naudot. The liner-notes suggest that Schultze's flute sonatas may have been written for Pignatelli and that he may have been an amateur flautist.

The Sinfonias have the form of quartets, or - as they were often called in French - quatuors. Several German composers wrote such pieces, such as Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Friedrich Fasch. The former's quartets were praised as models of their kind by Johann Joachim Quantz. The composition of quartets was considered the ultimate proof of a command of counterpoint anyway. The quartet was not only popular in Germany, but also in France. Telemann's quartets found an enthusiastic reception there, and were played by some of the best performers of the time, among them the flautist Michel Blavet and the gambist Jean-Baptiste Forqueray. During his stay in Paris in 1738, further quartets by Telemann were published. From that perspective, it is no surprise that Schultze's quartets were also printed in Paris.

Whereas trio sonatas were usually intended for amateurs, quartets seem to have been generally a little more demanding from a technical point of view. The fact that Telemann's quartets were played by some of the main performers of the time is telling. The Sinfonias by Schultze show a certain dichotomy, as Sieglinde Größinger and Christoph Urbanetz observe in their liner-notes. The flute part is relatively easy and may have been written for an amateur performer. In contrast, the violin part is more demanding and includes double stopping and passage-work. The most virtuosic part is that of the viola da gamba. In the Sinfonia V in G, for instance, the viola da gamba part includes episodes with leaps of a 10th over all four strings and broken arpeggios in diminution. One of the technical challenges of these sinfonias in general is the fact that "they abound in polyrhythms in all their movements, including frequent triplets over semiquavers" (booklet).

The six Sinfonias differ in structure. The first two are in three movements in the order fast - slow - fast. The third, fourth and sixth have four movements in the order of the sonata da chiesa. The fifth comprises five movements; three movements in the order slow - fast - slow are followed by two dance pairs: a menuet I and II and a polonaise I and II. The Sinfonia III in D has a pastoral character; the third movement is called aria paysana, and the violin part specifically refers to birdsong. The opening largo has a siciliana rhythm. The Sinfonia IV in F has a largo as its third movement, which is little more than a transition between the two fast movements which embrace it, and is full of harmonic tension. The Sinfonia V in G is also pastoral in character; it begins with a pastorale largo, in which the violin opens with a theme in siciliano rhythm. The largo in the middle is again a movement with strong harmonic tension. The Sinfonia VI in c minor ends with a canon in alla breve.

Although these pieces were published in Paris, they are written in the Italian style and the galant idiom. The fact that all the movements have Italian titles attests to that. In that respect they differ from the quartets by Telemann, which - although not without Italian traces - are largely written in the French style. Schultze's Sinfonias are nice additions to the repertoire: the composer may be a rather unknown quantity, he knew what he was doing, and the recording of these Sinfonias is certainly justified. I have greatly appreciated them, and the liner-notes are helpful to understand how they are structured. The ensemble's playing is of the highest order. The challenging violin and viola da gamba parts are perfectly executed. The intimate movements are performed with great sensitivity, and the more exuberant movements come off equally well. The ensemble is immaculate and the balance between the instruments as it should be.

This is a most enjoyable and entertaining disc that certainly will appeal to a wide audience of lovers of baroque music.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

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