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Music for Lute and Strings

[I] Ferdinand Ignaz HINTERLEITHNER (1659 - 1710): "Musical Miracles - Concertos for Lute"
Trio Liuto Concertato

rec: June 3 - 6, 2008, Weilburg
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88697449392 (© 2009) (76'42")

[II] Philippo MARTINO (? - ?): "Lute Trios"
The Age of Passions

rec: Jan 16 - 19, 2009, Bahlingen/Kaiserstuhl, Bergkirche
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88697690282 (© 2009) (67'26")

[I] Ferdinand Ignaz HINTERLEITHNER: Suite I in d minor; Suite II in F; Suite IV in F; Suite V in a minor; Suite VII in G; Suite IX in e minor; Suite X in g minor

[II] MARTINO? (?-?): Notturno No. 1a; Philippo MARTINO: Trio Ib; Trio IIb; Trio IIIa; Trio IVa; Trio Va; Trio VIb

[I] Lutz Kirchhof, lute; Martina Kirchhof, pardessus de viole; Judith Sartor, bass viol

[II] Lee Santana, lute; Karl Kaiser, transverse flutea; Petra Müllejans, violinb; Hille Perl, viola da gamba

The lute played an important role in music life of the renaissance and the baroque era. A large repertoire was written for the lute - and related instruments - as a solo instrument. It was also playing in ensembles, like the English consort music and, of course, as a basso continuo instrument. For a long time it seemed that only in the 18th century chamber music was written in which the lute is freed from its subservient role. Composers like Weiss, Baron and Straube came up with works for lute with another melody instrument, in particular the violin, or with several instruments.

So far only a small part of this repertoire has been explored, as the discs to be reviewed here demonstrate: Ferdinand Ignaz Hinterleithner and Philippo Martino are completely unknown quantities. The biographical data of the former show that music for lute and ensemble has been written before the turn of the century.

The booklet of Trio Liuto Concertato's recording of Hinterleithner's "lute concertos" doesn't contain any biographical information about the composer, he has no entry in New Grove and the internet is of no help either. So it seems reasonable to assume nothing more is known than the dates of his birth and death. The suites which Trio Liuto Concertato has recorded are from a collection which was printed in 1699 and dedicated to Joseph I, who was to become Holy Roman Emperor in 1705, and his wife Wilhelmine Amalie. He calls these suites "lute concertos", which justifies the title of this disc. In fact we have here suites in the French style with additional parts for a second treble instrument and a bass. The foreword to the collection doesn't specify the instruments. Lutz Kirchhof, in his programme notes, refers to "our scoring for pardessus de viole and viola da gamba", which suggests that the scores don't give an indication either as to which instruments should play the other parts.

The choice of the pardessus de viole is questionable. "In comparison to the violin and the cello, these instruments [the pardessus de viole and the bass viol] were felt by aristocrats and humanistically educated circles to be finer in character, and they speak to the listener in a subtle manner". But was the pardessus de viole played in Austria around 1700? It was mainly used in France, and there was a shortlived popularity of the descant viol in Germany in the first half of the 18th century, but at least in New Grove I haven't found any reference to the use of this instrument in Austria. Musically the choice of the pardessus de viole doesn't work that well either. Especially because Luth Kirchhof has a rather powerful way of playing the lute the balance with the pardessus de viole is less than ideal.

Although strictly speaking the second treble part is independent from the lute part, it takes much material from that part, and so does the viola da gamba. Obviously Lutz Kirchhof and his colleagues are enthusiastic about these suites, but on the whole I can't share those feelings. Sure, there are some nice movements with interesting thematic material, but in my view these suites contain too much of the same. The performances are not always convincing either, in particular when the players try to emphasize the assumed influences of Eastern European traditional music, especially in the bourrée of Suite I in d minor. Trendy, and therefore annoying is the attempt to connect Hinterleithner's suites to jazz in the courante of that same suite, for instance through the viola da gamba playing pizzicato.

The dates of birth and death of Philippo Martino are not known, nor are his precise names. His Christian name is Philipp, Philippo or Philippi, and his last name is Martin, Martino or Martino. The six trios recorded by The Age of Passions are the only compositions from his pen which are known; they were printed in Augsburg after 1726, probably between 1730 and 1733. Otherwise only a newpaper report mentions his name: "On May 12th 1738 the lutenist Philip Martini gave a concert with lute, cantatas, trios and solos".

On this disc one of the treble parts is played on the lute, whereas the other is divided over transverse flute and violin. The programme notes don't specify whether the scoring of the second treble part is specified by the composer. I assume it is left to the preference of the performer, which would be in line with the common practice at the time. The viola da gamba is playing the bass part; I wonder if this could be performed with a harpsichord as well. But the scoring with a viola da gamba alone is plausible and musically even preferable.

All trios are in four movements, but the character indications are rather uncommon. There are some andantes, vivaces and allegros; only the menuet appears in every trio. Trios I, II and VI contain a siciliana, Trios I, III, IV and V have an aria or arietta. The Trio II opens with an Entree, which is followed by a Ballo; Trio IV begins with a Capriccio and goes on with a Scherzo.

This gives the impression of Martino's trios being quite original, and that is supported by the music. There is nothing predictable, and listening to these pieces I wasn't reminded of any other composer I know. That fully justifies the recording of these trios. The interpretations do them full justice. The playing is energetic, the ensemble is immaculate and the interpretation is highly entertaining. You don't need to be a lute aficionado to appreciate this disc. It is a shame that Lee Santana is trying too hard to be funny in his programme notes. His remarks about the various trios are personal, but he tells nothing about their texture. The encore is a Notturno from a manuscript in the Royal Library in Copenhagen. It is also by a composer with the name of Martino, but Lee Santana believes he is not identical with Philippo Martino. It is not quite baroque anymore, but more a divertimento-like piece from the time between baroque and classicism.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Trio Liuto Concertato

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