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Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667)
The Unknown Works, Vol. 1

Partita in d minor (FbWV 639) [08:46]
Partita in d minor (FbWV 618a) [08:30]
Allamand in d minor (FbWV 635) [02:29]
Partita in E (FbWV 645) [09:07]
Partita in f sharp minor (FbWV 646) [06:51]
Partita in b minor (FbWV 652) [06:14]
Partita in g minor (FbWV 641)* [10:36]
Partita in c minor (FbWV 644)* [07:17]
Sarabande in c minor (FbWV 640)* [01:18]
Capriccio in a minor (FbWV 519)** [05:06]
Fugue in d minor (FbWV 307)** [00:53]
Toccata 2. toni in g minor (FbWV 130)** [02:23]
Siegbert Rampe, harpsichord [Reinhard von Nagel, after Couchet, Antwerp 1679], clavichord (*) [Jörg Gobeli, after anonymous South-German instrument, c1670], organ (**) [Hans Scherer the younger, 1624]
Recorded in August 2003 at the Oranienburg of Schloss Nordkirchen & St Stephanskirche, Tangermünde (**), Germany
MDG 341 1186-2 [70:36]

 

Johann Jacob Froberger was a man of fame in his time, and long after. His music has been found in many sources all over Europe, and this recording is the result of continuous exploration of Froberger's musical output. This disc is closely connected to the publication of a new edition of Froberger's works which is in progress, and of which Siegbert Rampe is one of the editors.

This disc consists of works which have been found fairly recently, or pieces whose authenticity could only recently be established.

Froberger was a man who travelled through many countries in Europe. He went to Rome to study with Frescobaldi and Carissimi, and from there he took Frescobaldi's toccata. He went to Paris, where he had considerable influence on the development of the 'prélude non mesuré', the French adaptation of Frescobaldi's toccata. On the other hand Froberger was influenced by the style of the French lute and keyboard composers, in particular in regard to the suite.

Froberger also travelled through the Low Countries, and went as far as England. The Partita in d minor (FbWV 618a) does exist only in two copies by English composers, one by John Blow, the other by William Croft. And the Partita in b minor (FbWV 652) has only recently been found in a Dutch manuscript by the organist Dirk Luijmes - another piece of evidence of the wide circulation of Froberger's works.

It seems Froberger wasn't always happy with that. In the liner notes, Siegbert Rampe refers to the fact that Froberger, while being the music teacher of Duchess Sybilla of Württemberg (a post he received in 1662), made the duchess his sole heir and stipulated in his will that she "might pass on to third parties only such works as he had authorized." It seems likely that he didn't want some "early works and experimental pieces in the main, using the then unusual keys of F sharp minor and E major - to fall into 'other people's hands', because they 'would not understand them and only spoil the same'". But pupils must have spread his compositions nevertheless. A number of them came into the hands of the South-German organist Johann Pachelbel, for instance.

There are two interesting observations by Siegbert Rampe in regard to the performance practice. The first is about the temperature which should be used to play these works. Rampe stresses the importance of playing them in mean-tone temperament. Only then the use of unusual keys as mentioned above, but also b minor and c minor, makes any sense. As a result some passages are strongly dissonant, but that was without any doubt Froberger's intention.

The second point regards the different versions of some pieces. In preparing the complete edition of Froberger's works it has become quite clear that there are no such things as 'definitive' versions. It seems Froberger reworked his own compositions every time he played them. "The changes always demonstrate improvisatory qualities and involve not only details like ornamentation and part-writing, but also the addition of voices and new cadential or closing sections." He goes on by drawing a general conclusion from this fact: keyboard works "were never performed twice in exactly the same way, changes were always made in the course of performance in order to captivate audiences afresh".

Siegbert Rampe decided to put this into practice during the recording of this programme. He added his own ornaments when appropriate, and added 'doubles' of his own to several movements in the style of Froberger's in other movements.

He also added a prelude to most Partita's recorded here, which reflects another habit of the time. Examples of this practice can be found in the so-called 'Grimm tablature', a collection of music which contains a large number of pieces by Froberger. The copyist, C. Grimm, finished the tablature in 1699, and added some preludes of his own to the Partita's by Froberger. A number of them are included here, and Siegbert Rampe has added his to some others.

This looks all very promising. And indeed, this is a fine recording. This programme gives an illuminating picture of the musical world of Froberger. And all pieces on this disc are excellent. The three instruments are well-chosen, and all tuned in mean-tone temperament, which increases the expression of the pieces played here.

But I have the feeling that this recording could have been even better. I am a little disappointed about Rampe's playing, at least on the harpsichord. There is a lack of accents, partly due to the fact that chords are often arpeggiated, but also because the articulation isn't as differentiated as I would have liked. Important chords or notes could have got more weight by shortening the preceding note. There is also very little breathing space between phrases.

Strangely enough there is no lack of accents in the performances on the clavichord. Rampe exploits the dynamic possibilities of the instrument to stress some chords which makes them much more enthralling.

The organ pieces are very well executed. And the sound of the historical organ with its mean-tone temperament is just irresistible.

Johan van Veen



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