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Romanus WEICHLEIN (1652 - 1706): Encaenia Musices, 1695

Ars Antiqua Austria
Dir: Gunar Letzbor

rec: Sept 2008, Pisa, Monte Magno
Symphonia - SY 08230 (2 CDs) ( 2008) (1.30'55")

Sonata Ia; Sonata II; Sonata III; Sonata IV; Sonata Va; Sonata VI; Sonata VII; Sonata VIII; Sonata IXb; Sonata X; Sonata XI; Sonata XIIa

Andreas Lackner, Herbert Walser, natural trumpeta; Gunar Letzbor, Piruska Batori, violin; Peter Aigner, Markus Miesenbergerb, Pablo de Pedro, viola; Jan Krigovsky, violone; Hubert Hoffmann, lute; Norbert Zeilberger, organ

Gunar Letzbor, the director of Ars Antiqua Austria, has a special interest in the musical heritage of Austria. In 1993 and 1994 he recorded the collection Encaenia Musices with his ensemble for the Italian label Symphonia. In fact, it was the second recording, as the ensemble had already made its own recording in 1989, but didn't have the money for the production. This explains that the cover of this disc says 'Anniversary recording - 20 years'. In 2009 the collection was recorded once again.

Who is Romanus Weichlein? He was born in Linz from parents who were both musicians and who gave him a good musical education. He received his first musical training at the abbey of Lambach and entered the Benedictine Order in 1671. He went to Salzburg to study at the University where he became a doctor of philosophy in 1673. Here he also got acquainted with Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. He returned to Lambach, and later became chaplain and musical director of the Benedictine convent of Nonnberg in Salzburg.

His oeuvre isn't very large, and it is quite possible that some of it has been lost. What has been left is this collection of sonatas as well as a number of masses, some of which Gunar Letzbor has also recorded. Encaenia Musices contains 12 sonatas for two violins, two violas and bc, with two additional trumpets in the Sonatas I, V and XII. The first recording also contained the 24 duets for two trumpets, which unfortunately have been left out here. Because of that this recording can't completely replace the older one.

There are certainly reminiscences of music by other Austrian composers, like Biber and Schmelzer. Even so Weichlein's sonatas have their very individual traces as well. There are several movements which are based on a basso ostinato: the 'bassacaglia' from the Sonata III and the ciaccona from the Sonata VI, of course, but also 'con discretione' from the Sonata I and the allegro from the Sonata IV. Several movements contain episodes in which the first violin plays an extended solo over a pedal point (adagio from Sonata V, for instance).

Several movements contain strong harmonic tension and dissonants, like the 'tardo' from the Sonata IV and the first adagio from Sonata IX. Weichlein must have been a quite skilful violinist, as these sonatas contain several virtuosic passages. In two movements Weichlein juxtaposes the two violins, imitating each other.

These sonatas not only have very individual traits, they are often quite original. The closing allegro of Sonata VI is a good example, where the violin plays a virtuosic solo whereas the other strings play strongly percussionistic figures. A number of movements have quite unexpected endings. The most striking example is the last movement (tardo) of the Sonata X.

The first recording of this collection was good, this new recording is outstanding. The various effects and original ideas of Weichlein have been realised better here, the contrasts are stronger, and the performance is much more theatrical. As a result the quality of Weichlein's music is more convincingly communicated than in the previous recording.

These sonatas by Weichlein are really excellent music, and there is every reason to play them alongside the music of renowned masters of Austrian late 17th-century music. Ars Antiqua Austria has done us a favour by recording this collection once again.

Johan van Veen ( 2010)

Relevant links:

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