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"Klingende Hamburgensien" (The sound of Hamburg)

La Porta Musicale

rec: Sept 26 - 28, 2016, Hamburg, Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte
Genuin - GEN 17462 (© 2017) (69'39")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet
Scores Telemann
Parts 't Uitnement Kabinet

Thomas BALTZAR (1630/31-1663): Allemande in g minora; Praeludium in c minora; Johann SCHOP (1590-1667): Almandeab [1]; Als Jupiter gedachtab [1]; Couranteab [1]; Lachrime pavaenab [1]; Nasce la pena miaab [1]; Nobelmanab [1]; [piece without title]ab [1]; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Partita in g minor (TWV 41,g2)ab [3]; Sonata in e minor (TWV 41,e2)ab [4]; Sonata in g minor (TWV 41,g1)ab [2]; Sonata in F (TWV 41,F4)ab [5]; Matthias WECKMANN (1616-1674): Die Lieblichen Blickeb

Sources: [1] Paulus Matthysz, ed., 't Uitnement Kabinet, 1655; Georg Philipp Telemann, [2] Six Sonates à violon seul accompagné par le clavessin, 1715; [3] Die kleine Cammer-Music, 1716; [4] Sonate metodiche, 1728; [5] Essercizii Musici, 1739/40

Gabriele Steinfeld, violina; Anke Dennert, harpsichordb

From the late 16th century until the late 18th century Hamburg was one of the chief musical centres in the German-speaking part of Europe. That had much to do with its economic prosperity, largely due to its status as one of the main members of the Hanseatic League. The present disc focuses on two stages in the musical history of the city. In the centre are two composers who played a key role in those episodes: Johann Schop and Georg Philipp Telemann. It is notable that there are exactly one hundred years between them. Schop was appointed first violinist of the Rathsmusik - the main instrumental ensemble of the city - in 1621 and died in 1667. Telemann became Musikdirektor in Hamburg in 1721 and died in 1767.

A comparision between these two stages shows one difference and one similarity. Whereas Telemann, although being director of music, had no duties in regard to playing the organ, in Schop's time the organists were the most revered musicians in town. The organs were among the largest and most impressive instruments in Germany and the organists - representatives of what has become known as the north German organ school - were the most brilliant specimens of their art. Matthias Weckmann is just one of them. In 1655 he was appointed organist of the Jacobikirche in Hamburg. Soon he became a leading figure in the musical life in the city, where in 1660 he founded a Collegium Musicum, which performed the newest music from Germany, Austria and Italy. Here we notice a similarity between Weckmann's and Telemann's time: the importance of instrumental music making among the higher echelons of society, also in the form of public concerts. It is quite likely that Weckmann cooperated with Schop in such events.

The latter is one of the early representatives of the German violin school. Through William Brade, whom he met when he worked at the Danish court in Copenhagen, he came into contact with English consort music. In addition he became acquainted with the latest developments in Italian instrumental music. The pieces recorded here are all taken from a collection of chamber music, published in the Netherlands in 1655 under the title of 't Uitnement Kabinet. They are for violin and basso continuo. Most of them fall into the category of diminutions, which are based on then popular melodies. One of his best-known pieces is Lachrime pavaen, a series of diminutions on John Dowland's famous consort piece. His acquaintance with Italian music comes to the fore in his diminutions on Nasce la pena mia, a madrigal by Alessandro Striggio.

In that piece he regularly makes use of double stopping. However, in the other pieces its application is rather modest. That is in strong contrast with the pieces by Thomas Baltzar, especially the Praeludium in c minor. Most of our information about his activities regards his performances in England, where he settled in 1655 and caused a sensation with his polyphonic playing of his instrument, something which was unheard in England. Baltzar was from Lübeck and was born into a familty of musicians. According to the English scientist Samuel Hartlib - himself of German origin - he was a pupil of Schop. If that is correct he must have been in Hamburg, before moving to England. The two pieces recorded here, both for violin without basso continuo, give a good impression of his virtuosity.

The latter is not one of the main features of Telemann's oeuvre. Throughout his career he showed scepticism towards virtuosity, which in his view often overshadowed harmony and good melody. Telemann was able to play virtually every instrument in vogue in his time, but he was not a virtuoso on any one instrument. That probably explains why he mostly avoids double stopping in his music for violin. It has also to do with the fact that most of his chamber music is written for amateurs. The number of sonatas for violin in his oeuvre is rather limited. The Sonata in g minor is from a set of six explicitly scored for violin and harpsichord - the latter playing a basso continuo part - which was printed in 1715. Its inclusion is a little odd as at that time he worked in Frankfurt. The same goes for the collection of six Partitas for a solo instrument and basso continuo, which appeared in 1716 under the title of Die kleine Cammer-Music. However, in this case the inclusion of the Partita in g minor can be justified by the fact that Telemann reprinted the collection in 1724 in Hamburg.

The Sonata in e minor is an example of music for which Telemann did not specify one particular instrument. In 1728 and 1732 he published two collections of six sonatas each under the title of Sonate metodiche and Continuation des sonates méthodiques respectively. They are scored for either violin or transverse flute, the latter being the most popular instrument among amateurs. Obviously Telemann had to avoid double stopping here altogether. These sonatas also have a pedagogical purpose: Telemann wrote out all the ornaments of the first movements on a separate stave. The track-list mentions 1732 as the year of publication, suggesting that the Sonata in e minor is from the second set. However, it is from the first; it has four movements, whereas the sonatas from the second set are all in five movements.

The Essercizii Musici is a remarkable collection. It is mostly thought to have been published in 1739/40, but Telemann scholar Steven Zohn believes it is of a much earlier date. Notable is the variety of scorings. The set is divided into twelve solos and twelve trios. They are scored for different instruments, and here Telemann does specifically indicate the instruments for each sonata. Two sonatas are for violin and basso continuo: the Sonata in F is the very first piece in the collection and has four movements. Although it is specifically intended for the violin, Telemann avoids double stopping.

This is a most interesting disc. Telemann and music for solo violin is probably a rather unlikely combination. Violin sonatas in his oeuvre are rare and therefore are not often played. His music seems also more popular among players of recorder or flute than among violinists. That makes this disc a nice addition to the Telemann discography. However, it is especially the pieces by Schop and Baltzar which deserve the attention of music lovers, and especially those who have a particular liking of the violin. Both are little known and their music is not often played. They definitely deserve more attention, although unfortunately few of Baltzar's compositions have been preserved. More has survived from Schop's pen, and we have to hope some day an enterprising ensemble will pay attention to, for instance, his two collections of dance music from 1633 and 1635.

The two members of La Porta Musicale are eloquent advocates of the pieces recorded here. They come up with excellent interpretations and they also play two instruments made in Hamburg: a violin by an anonymous builder from 1680 and a harpsichord by Carl Conrad Fleischer of 1716. In the booklet we find the usual error in the translation of the German Lautenzug. It is not, as we read here, a lute stop in English, but a buff stop. It is a little confusing, but that's the way it is.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

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