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Virtuosic violin sonatas from the Court of Saxony at Dresden
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)
Sonate in E [8.43]

Sonate in Eb [12.23]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)

Sonate in D [11.35]
Johann David HEINICHEN(1683-1729):

Sonate in C [7]
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784):

Sonate in F for harpsichord [7.98]
Johann Georg 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 Demicheli (harpsichord)
Recorded in Liederkranzhalle, Stuttgart, on 17th – 20th November 2003
CARUS 83.162 [78’31"]
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All bar one of the works on this disc are world premiere recordings. The quality of music on this CD makes it absolutely clear that the average person's knowledge of, and exposure to, the classical music repertoire simply represents the tip of an enormous iceberg. It is quite incredible that a composer of the obvious stature of Pisendel should be so little known and regarded (and similarly with a Hoffmeister disc that I also recently reviewed).

It is interesting to trace the development of violin music in Central Europe from the 16th century onwards. The centres of excellence of violin music did not reside in Germany but in Italy and France. It was Heinrich Schutz who attracted the virtuoso Italian violinist, Carlo Farina, from Mantua to come to Dresden in 1625 and thus began the development of the violin school there. Nearly 90 years later Pisendel joined the electoral Kapell Orchestra in Dresden as a young man, eventually taking over as Kapellmeister in 1730. He is considered by the Dresden 19th century musical historian, Furstenau, to be the "first German violinist who mastered the whole of the great Italian school and laid the foundations of the development of violin-playing in the German Fatherland".

It is a great shame that Pisendel, like the composer and publisher Hoffmeister, should have written so little music due to the pressure of work elsewhere; as the director of the Dresden orchestra, he was more concerned with violin playing and directing music than composing. The disc contains two violin sonatas which are indisputably by Pisendel, the sonatas in D major and E minor. Some of the scores of music in the Dresden music library are entirely in Pisendel’s hand but not autographed by him. Scholars presume that much of this music is indeed by Pisendel himself and on this CD we have two other violin sonatas, both in E flat, which are presumed to be by him. Also included on this CD, and of much interest, is a sonata for solo violin by Pisendel. Research seems to suggest that he may have known and possibly been influenced by the unaccompanied violin work of Bach, a composer he met as a young man in Weimar. Other sonatas included here are one in C by Pisendel’s contemporary and role model, Johann David Heinichen, and one in B (No. 6) by a younger contemporary Johann Adolf Hasse. Also on this disc is a harpsichord sonata by J.S. Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, who lived for many years in Saxony, demonstrating the influence of the Dresden School developed by Pisendel, albeit this time for harpsichord rather than violin.

Although Pisendel’s music is very characteristic of the period, it does have a certain individuality. It should be pointed out that these violin sonatas are not sonatas in the modern sense of the term, as they are not written for violin and solo keyboard instrument but for a combination of instruments - cello, lute, theorbo, harpsichord and so on - all accompanying the violin. In some cases they begin to resemble miniature concertos. These works do not have the exhilaration, excitement and boundless energy that one associates with the composers Telemann and Vivaldi (the latter composer well-known to Pisendel as he visited him in Italy). However they have an elegance and refinement which repays repeated hearings. Much of this grace and refinement must be put down to the excellence of the playing, especially by Martina Graulich on the Baroque violin, and one is grateful that these world premiere recordings have received such sympathetic and idiomatic performances. This disc comes highly recommended.

Em Marshall

see also

Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755) Violin Sonatas Sonata for violin and bc in D [10:04] Sonata for violin solo in a minor [12:44] Sonata for violin and bc in e minor [11:22] Sonata for violin and bc in c minor [12:12] Sonata for violin and bc in g minor [14:37] Anton Steck, violin; Christian Rieger, harpsichord (period instruments) Recorded in April 2003 at the Studio of the Deutschlandfunk, Cologne, Germany. DDD CPO 999 982-2 [61:11] [JV]

Sonatas by one of the greatest violinists of Bach’s time – fascinating music in a brilliant performance ... see Full Review.

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