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"Phantasia Musica - Violin Music of the 17th Century"

Furor Musicus

rec: August 2014, Renswoude (NL), Dorpskerk
Globe - GLO 5265 (© 2016) (65'12")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Ignazio ALBERTINI (1644-1685): Sonata VII in a minor [4]; Johann (Marianus) BAAL (1657-1701): Sonata in A [2]; Johann Erasmus KINDERMANN (1616-1655): Sonata III in scordatura [1]; Johannes SCHENCK (1660-after 1710): XII Capriccio [5]; XIII Fantazia [5]; Giovanni Buonaventura VIVIANI (1638-1692): Sonata [No. 90] for violin and bc; Ulrich Johann VOIGT (1669-1732): Sonata for violin and bc [1691]; Johann Jakob WALTHER (1650-1717): [Suite] I in d minor [3]

[1] Johann Erasmus Kindermann, Canzoni, Sonatae, una, duabus, tribus, & quator violis, pars posteriori, 1653; [2] Johann Baal, Opus primum, 1677; [3] Johann Jakob Walther, Hortulus Chelicus, uni violino duabus, tribus et quatuor subinde chordis simul sonantibus harmonice modulanti, studiosa varietate consitus, 1688; [4] Ignazio Albertini, Sonatinae XII Violino Solo, 1692; [5] Johannes Schenck, Suonate a violino e violone o cimbalo, op. 7, 1699

Antoinette Lohmann, violin; Sarah Walder, viola da gamba; María Sánchez Ramírez, cello; Harjo Neutkens, archlute, theorbo, guitar; Jörn Boysen, harpsichord, organ

In the baroque era the violin took a central role in music life. More than almost any other instrument it was able to demonstrate the virtuosity which was one of the hallmarks of the new style which emerged in Italy around 1600. Moreover, it was pre-eminently suited to give way to the affetti composers wanted to express in their music. In particular in the German-speaking world these developments were enthusiastically embraced. Carlo Farina, who worked for some time in Dresden, handed over the features of the new style. Especially in the second half of the 17th century, violin technique reached its peak in performers/composers such as Biber, Schmelzer and Walther. It is not exaggerated to speak about a German/Austrian/Bohemian violin school that was second to none in Europe.

The present disc brings together a number of specimens of what was written in the German-speaking world at the time. Antoinette Lohmann and her ensemble Furor Musicus avoided the well-trodden paths in that they omitted any pieces by Biber and Schmelzer, and rightly so, as they are well represented in the catalogue. That is not the case with the third composer I just mentioned: Johann Jakob Walther. In comparison with Biber and Schmelzer, he is not that often performed or recorded. From that perspective the inclusion of a suite from his collection Hortulus Chelicus is very welcome. He was one of those German composers who went to Italy to hone their skills. It is interesting to note the differences between the various representatives of the violin school in the German-speaking world. Whereas in particular Biber was strongly interested in the scordatura technique, Walther emphatically rejected it and considered it a "forced art". He was much more interested in imitation of other instruments and natural phenomena. Nothing of that kind turns up in the suite performed here.

The scordatura technique does manifest itself in the programme, though: in the Sonata III from a collection of violin music of 1653, Johann Erasmus Kindermann requires the violin to be tuned A-E-B-E. This collection includes five sonatas for violin and basso continuo, and these are among the very first sonatas for this scoring to be published in Germany. This sonata includes several sequences of chromatically ascending and descending figures. Kindermann is one of the lesser-known figures in the programme. Johann Baal is an even more unknown quantity; he has no entry in New Grove. Having served as organist and composer to the Prince-Bishopric of Bamberg, he entered the Benedictine Abbey of Münsterschwarzach. Only one violin sonata from his pen is known, published in his only printed collection Opus Primum, which also includes four motets. Although Baal was not educated as a violinist, this sonata is a technically demanding work, which includes double stopping.

Another composer who has left us only one violin sonata, is Ulrich Johann Voigt, another composer not mentioned in New Grove. This sonata is even the only work from his pen that has come down to us. He worked in northern Germany, and in his career we find two features of music life at the time, explained at length by Antoinette Lohmann in her excellent liner-notes. On the one hand, when he was an apprentice, he emphasized that he was not only a skilful violinist, but was also able to play other instruments - something that was expected from a municipal musician. On the other hand, he experienced the competition from a violinist of another category, the 'beer fiddler' - referring to violinist who had hardly any or no formal education at the violin.

Johann Schenck is an example of a composer who is fairly well-known. Born in Amsterdam from German parents, he developed into one of the main virtuosos on the viola da gamba in his time. The largest part of his oeuvre is devoted to his own instrument, and that is the music we mostly hear. His Op. 7 includes pieces for violin and basso continuo, and from this collection we get here two pieces. These are perfect examples of the stylus phantasticus as they consist of several contrasting sections that are not formally separated. The Capriccio lives well up to its title.

As I already indicated, the violin school of which the composers included here, are representatives, had its roots in Italy. That is underlined here through the inclusion of two pieces by Italian composers who were active in Austria. For two periods Viviani worked in Innsbruck. The sonata included is included in a manuscript, which is part of an important source of violin music performed at the time in Austria, the so-called Codex 726, preserved at the Minorite Convent in Vienna. It is probably a later arrangement of a sonata originally published in Viviani's Op. 4. This source also includes the apparently first edition of the twelve sonatas by Albertini, from which the Sonata VII in a minor is taken. The composer worked at the court in Vienna for a number of years; he prepared the printing of the sonatas with a dedication to Emperor Leopold I, but was murdered during the process. The sonata comprises seven sections and that makes it a perfect example of the stylus phantasticus.

In her liner-notes, Antoinette Lohmann states that music of this time is rhetorical by nature: "[Everything] notated by the composer conceals an intrinsic emotion". It is the task of the performer to convey these emotions in the performance. "Thus, when performing rhetorical music we must adapt our way of playing in the same way that we adapt our manner of speaking to the emotion of the moment, for instance by taking more time, speaking more calmly or agitatedly, louder or softer". These principles are applied brilliantly here. Antoinette Lohmann is an outstanding violinist, who does not only rely on an impeccable technique, but in her interpretation goes to the depth of things, exploring the emotional features of the music through a differentiated use of articulation, tempo and dynamics. She and her colleagues have produced a highly compelling survey of violin music from the German-speaking part of Europe in the 17th century. One can only hope for more.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

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