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Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (1623-1680)
Arlecchino - Sonate e Balletti
Serenata con altre ane [8.03]
Sonata seconda per canto e b.c. [4.45]
Sonata XIII per due canti . b.c. [3.08]
Sonatina III [3.03]
Sonata quarta per canto e b.c. [7.13]
Balletto La Pastorella [7.32]
Sonatina IV [3.00]
Sonata VIII per flauto e gamba [5.35]
Sonata X per dui canti e b.c. [4.18]
Sonatina VI [3.44]
Giovanni Battista VITALI
Ciaconna [3.18]
Passagallo secondo [2.42]
Passacaglia [7.11]
Ensemble Caprice:-
Matthias Maute, recorder
Sophie Larivière, recorder
Michael Spengler, viola da gamba
Maria Grossmann, harpsichord
Rec: July 1998.
ANTES EDITION BM-CD 31.9149 [63.40]

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer was an important composer in 17th century Germany. Both an outstanding violinist and composer, he was named the musical director of the court orchestra of the Viennese Court shortly before the end of his life. His music shows a wide variety of influences, though the Italian influence is most apparent. This recording contains several works by Schmelzer together with two works by the Italian composer Giovanni Battista Vitali and one by Georg Muffat.

All of these pieces have the pastoral sound of music that was made for enjoyment. There are no deep works here, only agreeable, melodic music. Nevertheless, they are not simple works - they call for talented soloists, and feature some technically difficult passages.

The Serenata con altre ane, is a lively, delightful work in several parts featuring two recorders playing in harmony over the harpsichord and viol. These are brief, energetic dance movements that recall the time when baroque music was played for people to dance to, interspersed with more melodic, slow movements.

The ballet music, written for La Pastorella, is much more expansive - it has the clear sound of music written for the stage, and features a series of gavottes, of various influences: English, Bavarian, Spanish, etc. One can easily imagine the baroque dancers stepping sprightly on stage in time to the various rustic tunes.

The shorter pieces are little snippets of music that provide a varying level of interest. Of note is the Sonata VIII for flute and viol (although the track list does not mention it, there is an organ playing continuo). This is an interesting combination of instruments, and the melodies range from melancholy to vibrant, with the flute and viol playing an attractive counterpoint.

The works by Vitali and Muffat are interesting, as these two composers were contemporaries of Schmelzer. The Muffat Passacaglia for harpsichord is especially appealing; the passacaglia was a popular form of the baroque period, being a series of variations on a theme. This type of music was often used as a vehicle to highlight a composer's creativity and virtuosity, and this work is a fine example of this form.

Overall, this is an interesting recording. While the music is in no way essential, it provides an agreeable hour of melodies played by competent musicians.

Kirk McElhearn


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