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Il Giardino Corrupto: Italian influence in German and Austrian Chamber Music 1650-85
Johann Caspar KERLL (1627-1693)

Sonata à 3 in g minor [07:58]
Sonata à 2 in F [06:19]
Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (c1620-1680)

Sonata XI in d minor [05:35]
Matthias WECKMANN (c1619-1674)

Sonata à 3 in G [03:06]
Johann ROSENMÜLLER (c1619-1684)

Sonata II in e minor [09:05]
Antonio BERTALI (1605-1669)

Sonata à 3 in a minor [03:20]
Johann Erasmus KINDERMANN (1616-1655)

Sonata ‘Giardino Corrupto’ [04:00]
Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704)

Sonata in D [12:02]
anon (17th c.)

Toccata for keyboard
Johann Caspar KERLL

Sarabant for keyboard
Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER

Sonata ‘Lanterly’ à 3
La Luna:
Ingrid Matthews, Scott Metcalfe, violin; Emily Walhout, viola da gamba; Byron Schenkman, harpsichord, organ
Rec. September 1999 at a private residence in the state of Washington, USA, DDD
WILDBOAR WLBR 9903 [65:42]


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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In the booklet of this disc Scott Metcalfe, one of the ensemble’s violinists, has written a thorough essay on the characteristics of German music of the 17th century. I would recommend reading it before listening to this recording, since it explains many things the listener encounters in the music played here.

In this essay Metcalfe underlines the huge influence of Italian music all over Europe. Musicians went – or were sent by their employer – to Italy to learn the new theatrical, flamboyant and expressive style in vogue there. And Italian musicians travelled north to find employment and spread the new musical ideals. "This program attempts to convey some of how German and Austrian composers absorbed the lessons of Italian musicians and adapted Italian style to their own ends – perhaps more sober, less effusively emotional, less Mediterranean, if we permit ourselves to indulge in a bit of geographical stereotyping".

The two sonatas by Johann Kaspar Kerll with which this disc starts are a good illustration of many of the characteristics of Italian music being "brilliantly virtuosic, overflowing with passionate affect and theatrical effect, freely dissonant, full of contrast and variety".

The affect of the two sonatas is quite different, as the keys of g minor and F major indicate. Sharp dissonants appear in the Sonata in F, which is mainly a dialogue between the two violins, which underlines the theatrical character of Italian music. It doesn’t come as a surprise that we find this reflected in Kerll’s sonata. After all, he had been in Rome in the late 1640s to study with Giacomo Carissimi, the founder of Italian oratorio.

Sequences of contrasting sections are another feature of Italian music and of the pieces on this disc. Some contain a variety in scoring: in Kerll’s Sonata in g minor for 2 violins, viola da gamba and bc the second section is set as a solo for the viola da gamba.

The fact that German composers embraced the Italian style doesn’t mean German music lost its own character. The Germans had a preference for serious music, something which Heinrich Schütz called ‘gravitas’. This is reflected in the continuing love for counterpoint which appears in several pieces on this disc.

A good example of the seriousness of German music is the Sonata ‘Giardino corrupto’ by Johann Erasmus Kindermann, which has given this recording its title. ‘Giardino corrupto’ refers to a maze. "Kindermann provides just one part for both violinists to use. While the first violinist begins at the upper left corner of the first page and proceeds left to right, line by line, as usual, the second violinist begins in the lower left-hand corner of the second page and follows numbers placed above the measures to play up the left-hand side of page two, to the right across the top, down the right-hand side, backwards across the bottom (reversing notes) and thence across the bottom of page one, turning upwards at the corner, and so forth." This is a typical example of the often intellectual character of German music. A composition like this is mainly a challenge to the composer rather than to the performer. And the listener certainly won’t hear anything unusual.

The liner notes show the musicians know what they are dealing with. They clearly understand the character of the music they are playing. That doesn’t automatically mean they are able to realise what the music asks for. But fortunately they are playing the pieces on this disc quite well. The interpretation of music as ‘speech’ isn’t just theory here, but applied in regard to the differentiated treatment of notes, an eloquent articulation and the emphasis of some elements of the musical texture.

Even so I believe that maybe about 70 to 80 percent of the music’s expressiveness is realised here. In some cases – for example the only sonata for violin and bc by Muffat – the contrasts don’t come through strongly enough. In its recording of this same sonata The Rare Fruits Council (Astrée E 8840 – which I reviewed here in September 2003) goes much further in showing off the content of this sonata.

But let us not be too picky here. The number of really convincing recordings of German instrumental music of the 17th century is very limited. And this is definitely one of the best interpretations available. The programme is very interesting and of a consistent high quality, the performance is very good and the liner notes give a clear insight into the character of German baroque music.

Johan van Veen



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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