Johann Georg Pisendel
was one of the most famous violinists
in Germany in the first half of the
18th century. He was also a model of
the musician in the baroque era: he
travelled a lot, listened and learned
wherever he was, and integrated what
he heard into his own music. Like his
friend Bach he was a representative
of the ‘mixed taste’, a mixture of French
and Italian elements.
Born in Cadolzburg,
Pisendel started his career as a chorister
at the court of Ansbach in 1697. There
he took violin lessons from Giuseppe
Torelli. In 1703 he entered the court
orchestra as a violinist. In 1709, on
his way to Leipzig to study at the university,
he met Bach at Weimar. In 1712 he became
a member of the court orchestra at Dresden,
one of the best ensembles of Germany.
When the concert master Jean-Baptist
Woulmyer (Volumier) died in 1728 Pisendel
took over his duties, and was officially
appointed as his successor in 1730.
During his time in
Dresden he had plenty of opportunities
to visit some of the main music centres
in Europe. In 1714 he was in France,
in 1715 in Berlin and in the years 1716-1717
he stayed in Italy. In Venice he met
Vivaldi, from whom he took lessons,
but who soon considered Pisendel as
his colleague and friend. He also went
to Rome and Naples, and in 1718 he was
Pisendel’s fame was
not in the first place based on his
skills as a violinist, but first and
foremost as leader of the court orchestra
in Dresden. In this capacity he was
particularly admired for his precision
and thoroughness. And even as a performer
of violin music he concentrated on performing
according to the intentions of the composer.
He was also influential
as teacher of some famous masters of
the next generation, like Johann Joachim
Quantz and the Graun brothers.
In those days a musician
of Pisendel’s stature was expected to
compose as well. And that was what Pisendel
did. He took composition lessons from
Johann David Heinichen, but these ended
prematurely because of a conflict, about
which no details are known. Not many
compositions are known today, but that
wasn’t very different in his own time.
His friend Johann Friedrich Agricola
reports that Pisendel was extremely
critical of his own works: "He
was never satisfied with his own work
but always wanted to improve it; indeed,
he reworked it more than one time. Now
this cautiousness was really somewhat
exaggerated. It may also be one reason
that so little of his work has become
Some orchestral works
are known and the sonatas on this disc.
The authenticity of three of them (those
in D, in c minor and in g minor) has
only recently been established.
The Sonata in D, which
opens this disc, was probably composed
during his stay in Venice. It is one
of Pisendel's most demanding pieces,
and carries the traces of a solo concerto.
Interestingly the musical material was
later indeed used for a concerto for
violin and orchestra. Quantz praised
Pisendel for his playing of adagio movements.
Although the second (slow) movement
of this sonata is labelled ‘larghetto’,
from this movement one can easily imagine
that Pisendel’s playing of such a piece
must have been very moving. The third
movement contains some very virtuosic
The second item is
one of the relatively small number of
pieces for violin solo of that time.
One is tempted to compare it with the
sonatas and partitas by Bach, and there
are clear similarities - Pisendel seems
to have been influenced by Bach. But
the strong polyphonic character of Bach's
works is missing here.
The Sonata in a minor
is an example of a piece which Pisendel
reworked: it does exist in two versions.
The first was in four movements in the
style of the Italian 'sonata da chiesa'
and was probably written in Venice.
Here the second version has been recorded
which is in three movements. But the
movement from the first version which
is missing from the second has been
included. This seems to me a strange
decision: Pisendel apparently reworked
the first version into a three-movement
form in order to bring it into line
with the new sonata style which the
Graun brothers had developed in Berlin:
slow - fast - fast. The inclusion of
the 'arioso' from the first version
conflicts with these intentions. The
last movement stands out for its harmonic
The fourth piece is
the Sonata in c minor which very much
sounds like a composition of Johann
Sebastian Bach. In fact, this sonata
is the one included in Schmieder's catalogue
as BWV 1024; it is still played regularly
as a work by Bach. It is in many ways
a strongly 'German' work and is composed
in a 'learned' style. Especially the
first movement is very 'Bachian' with
its melodic and harmonic peculiarities.
The second movement is very virtuosic,
and in the last movement is dominated
by the Affekt - so characteristic of
the German baroque in particular.
The last piece is the
Sonata in g minor, which seems to have
been written under the influence of
the Roman school. In 1717 Pisendel went
to Rome to visit Antonio Montanari,
who was a famous violinist and orchestral
director, and who was a pupil of Corelli.
This is a very interesting
and musically fascinating recording.
The music presented here shows that
Pisendel - as Agricola suggested - really
didn't have any reason to doubt the
quality of his compositions. This is
just excellent stuff. And Anton Steck
totally believes in it, as his interpretation
shows. No matter how virtuosic some
pieces or passages in them are, he masters
them with ease. His differentation of
the notes and the shaping of the phrases
is brilliant. This is a very eloquent
and passionate plea for Pisendel's music.
And Christian Rieger supports him with
his driving continuo playing.
I shall return to this
disc frequently, as it is a fine demonstration
of what is best in the music of the
German baroque era.
Johan van Veen
from the Court of Saxony at Dresden
Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)
Sonate in E [8.43] ANONYMOUS
Sonate in Eb [12.23]
PISENDEL (1687-1755) Sonate
in D [11.35] Johann
David HEINICHEN(1683-1729): Sonate
in C  Wilhelm
Friedemann BACH (1710-1784):
Sonate in F for harpsichord [7.98]
PISENDEL (1687-1755) Sonate
in A for solo violin [10.38] Johann
Adolf HASSE (1699-1783): Sonate
no. 6 in B [10.28] Johann
Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)? ANONYMOUS
Sonate in Eb major [10.33]
Martina Graulich, (Baroque violin),
Ute Petersilge (baroque cello), Thomas
C. Boysen (theorbo, guitar), Stefano
Recorded in Liederkranzhalle, Stuttgart,
on 17th – 20th
CARUS 83.162 [78’31"] [EM]
and refinement ... excellence of the
playing ... sympathetic and idiomatic
performances. Highly recommended. ...
see Full Review