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Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649 - 1725): "12 Trio Sonatas op. 2"

Echo du Danube
Dir: Christian Zincke

rec: March 24 - 26 & Nov 24 - 27, 2014, Heilsbronn, Refektorium
CPO - 555 333-2 (2 CDs) (© 2020) (91'44")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Sonata I in C; Sonata II in d minor; Sonata III in e minor; Sonata IV in F; Sonata V in G; Sonata VI in a minor; Sonata VII in B flat; Sonata VIII in g minor; Sonata IX in d minor; Sonata X in A; Sonata XI in D; Sonata XII in D

Martin Jopp, violin; Christian Zincke, viola da gamba; Reinhild Waldek, harp; Thomas Boysen, theorbo; Elisabeth Seitz, salterio; Anne Marie Dragosits, harpsichord, organ

Johann Philipp Krieger was of the generation of German composers in whose oeuvre we find links between the 17th century and the 18th. Krieger's vocal output includes sacred concertos of the kind that was common in the 17th century. However, he also left cantatas which point in the direction of what was to become the standard in the 18th century, for instance in the cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach. Unfortunately, not that many of his compositions are available on disc and his name does not appear that frequently in concert programmes.

Krieger was born in Nuremberg; he was the elder brother of Johann Krieger. He was educated at the keyboard and at an early age he already showed extraordinary skills. As a teenager he went to Copenhagen to study with Caspar Förster. After his return he entered the service of Margrave Christian Ernst of Bayreuth. When the latter became involved in the war against France, Krieger was allowed to travel to Italy. There he studied with Johann Rosenmüller in Venice and later went to Rome to study with Bernardo Pasquini. After his return he went to Vienna and played for Emperor Leopold I, who ennobled him. In 1677 he was appointed organist in Halle at the court of Duke August of Saxony-Weissenfels. When the latter died in 1680, he was appointed Hofkapellmeister by his successor, Johann Adolph I.

Krieger's instrumental oeuvre seems to have fared better than his vocal music, undoubtedly due to the fact that some of it was published (although it is probably telling that this recording was made in 2014 and only released in 2020). The first collection was printed in Nuremberg in 1688, and comprises twelve trio sonatas for two violins and basso continuo. That scoring was common in Italy, and documents the influence of the Italian style in Krieger's oeuvre. The second collection came from the press in 1693, once again in Nuremberg. These twelve trio sonatas are scored for violin, viola da gamba and basso continuo, which was much more common in Germany. Most of Buxtehude's sonatas have this same scoring as have the six sonatas by another contemporary, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach.

These sonatas are specimens of the stylus phantasticus which had its origins in Italy and had emerged in the early decades of the 17th century. Sonatas were constructed as a sequence of sections of contrasting tempo and metre, which follow each other attacca. Only here and there one finds a clear caesura within these sonatas, pointing to the future, when sonatas were formally separated into different movements. Often a tempo lasts just a couple of bars before another tempo indication appears. All the movements have Italian titles: adagio, allegro, grave, presto. Just once Krieger indicates an andante.

Here and there one of the instruments has a solo episode to play. That is the case, for instance, in Sonata I. The closing episode is indicative of the character of these sonatas: the tempo indication is allegro, but the last couple of bars have to be played poco adagio. Sonata II closes with an aria d'inventione, comprising ten parte over a basso ostinato. Another basso ostinato turns up in Sonata VI: the penultimate movement is called giaconna. Krieger uses dynamical indications only sporadically: in the first section of Sonata IV we see the indications piano and forte. The same is the case in the opening section of Sonata VII. The last two bars of this sonata have to be played piano. It was quite usual in Germany at the time to include elements of the French style into instrumental music. An example here is the last section of Sonata V which is a courante.

There is plenty to enjoy in these fine sonatas, which shed light on Krieger's skills as a composer of instrumental music. Some sonatas have been included in anthologies, but this twofer seems to be the first complete recording of this collection. It receives a engaging interpretation by Echo du Danube, which finds exactly the right approach to this repertoire. The contrasts between the ensuing sections within each sonata come off to full extent. The players also create a nice dynamic shading, which contributes to the rhetorical and speech-like nature of these interpretations. There is also a good variety within the basso continuo group. We are used to hear a theorbo (probably a bit too often, even where there is no reason for it), but in German music the harp does not often participate. I personally have still some question marks regarding its use in Germany in the 17th century; it may have been used more frequently than I am inclined to think. Also included is a salterio, which is quite popular these days in performances of instrumental music.

As one will understand, this production is a substantial addition to the discography. If you like Buxtehude's sonatas, you will certainly also enjoy these little-known gems by Krieger.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

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