musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Music for Oboe Band

[I] "Music for Hautbois Band"
Toutes Suites
Dir: Marianne R. Pfau
rec: June 2 - 5, 2011, Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Aufseß-Saal)
Genuin - GEN 12536 (© 2012) (69'12")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649-1725): Partie I in F; Partie II in C; Partie III in F; Toccata and fuguea; Johann Christian SCHIEFERDECKER (1679-1732): Concerto III in c minor; Concerto V in d minor; Concerto IX in g minor

Sources: Johann Philipp Krieger, Lustige Feld-Music, 1704; Johann Christian Schieferdecker, XII Musicalische Concerte, bestehend in auserlesenen Ouverturen nebst einigen schönen Suiten und Sonaten, 1713

Marianne Richert Pfau, Julia Belitz, Nils Jönsson, oboe; Regina Sanders, bassoon; Achim Weigel, violone; Anke Dennert, harpsichord (soloa)

[II] "Lustige Feld-Music"
Lingua Franca
Dir: Benoît Laurent
rec: Oct 2009, Beaufays, Église Saint Jean l'Évangéliste
Ricercar - RIC 304 (© 2010) (55'36")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758): Concerto in G (FWV L,G11); Johann FISCHER (1646-1716): Suite in a minor; Christoph FÖRSTER (1693-1748): Concerto in G; Johann Michael MÜLLER (1683-1743): Sonata in F; Sonata in a minor; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767), arr anon: Partita in c minor (after TWV 41,c1)

Sources: Johann Fischer, Tafelmusik, 1702; Johann Michael Müller, XII Sonates à un hautbois de Concert, qu'on doit jouer sur cet Instrument surtout quand il y a écrit Solo, deux Hautbois ou Violons, une Taille, un Fagot & Basse Continue pour le clavecin ou Basse de violon, c1712

Mathieu Loux, oboe; Benoît Laurent, Lidewei De Sterck, oboe, oboe da caccia; Stefaan Verdegem, oboe, taille; Jean-François Carlier, Moni Fischalek, bassoon; Wendy Ruymen, Michyo Kondo, viola; Bernard Woltèche, cello; Julien Wolfs, harpsichord, organ

These two discs shed light on music for oboe band which was composed in Germany at the end of the 17th and the first quarter of the 18th century. Up until that time this kind of ensemble only existed in France. It had its roots in the alta capella, an ensemble of loud wind instruments, which played an important role in the 15th and 16th centuries. Such ensembles, consisting of instruments like the cornett, the sackbut and the bombard, had especially a representational function. In France they were part of the Grande Écurie of Louis XIII which comprised various ensembles of different instruments. During his reign it was extended with the XII grands hautbois. Gradually the double reed instruments superseded the cornetts and sackbuts. Oboes and bassoons became increasingly popular and entered the opera orchestra. Around the turn of the century they also made their appearance in chamber music.

Outside France these instruments were hardly known. That changed in the last quarter of the 17th century due to two factors. The first was the increasing influence of French music. Many aristocrats came under the spell of French culture and wanted music in the French style to be played at their courts. Especially the orchestral suite in the style of Jean-Baptiste Lully was highly admired. Composers travelled to France to listen and learn and they started to compose orchestral suites themselves. For the performance of such music oboes and bassoons soon became an integral part of court chapels. The second development was the fact that Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. As a result many Huguenots left the country, often taking their musicians with them. This further increased the influence of French music, including the use of wind instruments such as oboe and bassoon. The emergence of the oboe band was the direct effect of these two developments.

One of the composers of music for oboe band was Johann Philipp Krieger. Only three parties have been preserved. However, they give us much information about the role of such ensembles. For a start, these works are written in four parts. Interestingly, the edition comes with three copies of the upper part and two copies each of the inner parts. Considering that at least two musicians could play from the same stand one may assume that an oboe band could comprise about ten musicians. This is supported by the fact that Krieger, who for much of his life worked at the court of Weissenfels, not only had the oboe band of the regiment at his disposal, but also an additional band for theatre productions and chamber music. This is an indication of the number of woodwind players but also their important role at the music scene. The music for oboe band could also be adapted for other occasions. Krieger specifically recommends the addition of strings and harpsichord to the woodwind in domestic performances by amateurs.

This practice seems to be supported by the concertos which were written by Johann Christian Schieferdecker. These are scored for three oboes, three violins, bassoon and bc, but Marianne Pfau, in her liner-notes, states that the scoring could be adapted to the circumstances. The oboe parts are doubled by the strings which are added for performances in the theatre. This is an inversion of the practice in France where the oboes mostly played colla parte with the strings.

It is a matter of good fortune that the programme at the second disc is entirely different from that of the first, and includes music by several little-known composers. One of them is Johann Fischer, whose Suite in a minor opens the disc. He was born in Augsburg and studied for several years with Samuel Capricornus in Stuttgart. He then went to Paris, where he acted as one of Lully's copiists for five years. After that he worked in many places across Europe. His compositions bear witness to the influence of Lully. According to the track-list this suite is scored for two oboes, taille, bassoon and bc. However, it is taken from a collection with the name of Tafelmusik which suggests that it was probably intended for strings in the first place. This issue isn't mentioned in the booklet.
Johann Michael Müller is another unknown quantity. Only one collection of instrumental music from his pen has been preserved. The title page is in French and the composer even spelled his name in French. It comprises twelve sonatas for solo oboe, two ripieno parts which can be played by oboes or violins, taille, bassoon and bc. The collection was published in Amsterdam and a copy has been found in the library of the Count von Schönborn-Wiesentheid which supports the assumption that woodwind ensembles were quite common at aristocratic courts in Germany.
Christoph Förster was a pupil of Johann David Heinichen and worked for most of his life at the service of Prince Friedrich Anton von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. He is an exponent of the mixed taste: the Sonata in G, scored for three oboes and two bassoons without basso continuo, is in Italian style, although the last two movements are dances with a French title. This indicates that the phenomenon of the woodwind band may be French, that doesn't mean that the music written for it was always French as well.

Two of the leading advocates of the mixed taste in Germany were Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Friedrich Fasch. Telemann - who was a particularly great admirer of the French style - is represented here with a partita from the Cleine Kammer-Music, originally scored for solo instrument and bc. It is performed here in an arrangement from his time for two oboes, taille, bassoon and bc.
The scoring of Fasch's Concerto in G causes a problem because the nomenclature of the two solo upper parts. They are called oboe de Silve, a term which is unique for this piece. The range of the parts is identical with that of the oboe da caccia, and for that reason there can be little doubt that these instruments are meant here. The two lowest parts are also indicated by a rather mysterious term: Chalcedon. It has not been possible to establish the identity of this instrument with any certainty. On the basis of the parts' range and their style it has been decided to play them with bassoons. This concerto is a little out of step with the rest of the programme because the two middle parts are for violas.

Both ensembles deliver very fine performances. Lingua Franca's playing is a little more relaxed than that of Toutes Suites. Is that due to the difference between woodwind playing of the Germans and the French? Anyway, both discs deserve full recommendation. They shed light on a lesser-known part of the baroque repertoire of instrumental music. The pieces which have been chosen for these two discs are all of excellent quality and are highly entertaining.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Lingua Franca
Toutes Suites

CD Reviews