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Georg Matthias MONN (1717 - 1750)
Concerto in g for keyboard (Harpsichord) and Orchestra, S.12 (1746) [17.50]
Concerto in Bb for Harpsichord, transverse flute, violin, and b. c., S.10 (1744) [13.27]
Sonata for Organ, #1 in G (<1738) [11.16]
Sonata for Organ, #1 in G (alternate version - first movement) [3.33]
Georg Christoph WAGENSEIL (1715 - 1777)

Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra in C (c.1762) [15.16]
Johann Christoph MANN (1726 - 1782)

Menuetto and Trio for Fortepiano, #1, in Bb. [7.36]
Roderick E. Simpson, editor and synthesist, with "I Suoni Assaggiati"
Recorded 1998 in Boise, Idaho, USA.
Notes in English.
INITIUM CD-A004 [68.58]

Comparison recording:
Monn, S12, Schneider, La Stagione cpo 999 391-2

Neither of these Monn concertos is the one Schoenberg arranged for cello and orchestra. The g minor keyboard concerto appears on the Schneider disk in the harpsichord version and also in a version for cello.

Following the Monn, the Wagenseil sounds at first like something Schoenberg should have arranged instead. It’s already cute and sparkly, but on familiarity its virtues become more apparent. In his time Wagenseil was a popular and well known musician, his style very influential. Here he produces a beautiful andante of tragic proportions, and Simpson’s ability to ornament an eighteenth century melodic line contributes a great deal.

The Monn Triple Concerto is perhaps really a trio sonata, but the concerto aesthetic is unmistakable. This work can be compared to Bach’s unaccompanied Two Harpsichord Concerto in C, except that of course the Monn work is very much in the Eighteenth Century style. Unfortunately the synthesis of solo violin leaves something to the imagination and some may find this recording unconvincing, even though the keyboard and flute are rendered very well, and the violin part is not musically "leading," and is tacit in the slow movement. As with all synthesised music concerts, some persons will find the sound intolerable, and that’s a shame because they will miss some fine music they’re not likely to hear any other way. For most persons, the sound quickly becomes familiar and the musical rewards fully repay a little patience. See William Zagorsky’s review of these disks in Fanfare Magazine V. 21 #3 and V. 27 #6 for some additional comments on this issue.

Johann Christoph Mann might be called the Franz Liszt of the 18th Century, and his music suffered a similar fate. The same nineteenth century musicologists who revived Bach with loving collection and collation had a contempt for two kinds of virtuosos: 1) arrangements of "popular" airs to allow performance in piano recital of orchestral and vocal works, and 2) pieces designed to showcase the skill of the performer. Victorian musicologists solemnly pronounced that such music had no divine inspiration in it as it was written for unworthy purposes, therefore it was beneath contempt and deserved to perish. Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes, Hungarian Rhapsodies and opera transcriptions were consigned to these yawning dustbins and would have rotted away there had not 20th century musicologists, encouraged by Bela Bartók, decided to take a second look.

After all, Bach wrote a lot about God, therefore whatever he wrote was "inspired", even his transcriptions of popular airs and his virtuoso showpieces. Travelling virtuosos like Silvius Leopold Weiss, Johann Christoph Mann, Nicolo Paganini, and Franz Liszt not only were not obsessed by writing about God. Worse, they associated with show people, probably had sex, perhaps even frequently, and were therefore evil and ungodly, and their music would corrupt any students with whom it might come in contact. Liszt’s assumption of holy orders was condemned as a posturing hypocrisy, and his composition of religious music was denounced as sacrilege, for reality cannot be allowed to conflict with theory. "The Devil must not be believed even when he tells the truth." Such a quaint and silly idea still casts its huge shadow. The music of Liszt was buried unheard for nearly fifty years after his death. Only in the last decades have the works of Weiss begin to be revived, and only with the release of Initium disks has the world heard any of the works of J. C. Mann.

The Menuetto and Trio presented here, only one of many that exist in manuscript, is a masterpiece and alone worth the price of this disk. It contains bizarre touches of seductive Spanish rhythm, capitalising on the popularity of the then newly published Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas, but it doesn’t sound at all like Scarlatti, instead it looks forward astonishingly to Astor Piazzola. Performed here with wit and grace, it is music to astonish and delight. You may find yourself laughing out loud at some of the twists and turns, swoops and glides. Whether it was intentionally satirical or not, it succeeds admirably in this, and may even remind you a little of Ravel’s La Valse. Mr. Simpson, may we please have many more of these Menuettos?

The Monn Sonata for Organ is a bright and tuneful work, one you’ll find yourself whistling; you’ll be sure you’ve heard it before somewhere, but, no this is the first time. The music is so much fun that Simpson imagines Monn playing it with the percussion stops on the organ turned on and offers us an alternate track so recorded. This track alone will ensure you never have another dull party.

Paul Shoemaker

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