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Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (1623 - 1680)
Sonata Natalitia à 3 Cori [2.56]
Sacro Profanus Concentus Musicus (1662): Sonata I à 8 [3.54]; Sonata II à 8, due cori [5.16]; Sonata IV à 6 [4.23]
Sonata a 4 ‘La Crolietta’ [6.20]
Sonata à 3 [4.37]
Sonata à 5 [7.00]
Sonata à 3 [5.46]
Sonata à 3 Violini [7.06]
Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Recorded before 1970 (at the Casino Zögernitz, 1969?). ADD
Notes (1 page) English, Français, Deutsch.
previously released 1970 as Teldec LC 04281
WARNER APEX 2564 60366-2 [48.14]
Johann Josef FUX (1660 - 1741)

Concentus musico-instrumentalis (1701): Serenada à 8
Rondeau à 7 [4.17]
Sonata à Quattro
Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Recorded at the Casino Zögernitz, 1969 ADD
Notes (1 page) in English, Français, and Deutsch.
previously released 1970 on Teldec.
WARNER APEX 2564 60449-2 [48.12]


Once upon a time there were four German composers named Schultz, Schütz, Scheidt, and Schein. Anthony Burgess might have called them the four shüts. They all wrote the usual church stuff. However, one of them, Schultz, didn’t want to be one of the four shüts any more, so he latinised his name to Praetorius and struck off on a lucrative new career arranging and publishing pop tunes. After the four whatevers, in the Germanys there were Buxtehude, Fux and Schmelzer, the X & Z guys. They, too, wrote the usual church stuff, but also had fun with drums and trumpets. (About the same time in other countries we had Purcell, Couperin and Corelli — heavy on embedded Rs — each doing something completely different.)

Just to finish off the story, the next generation, the High Baroque, is distinguished by all of its most famous composers apparently having been born in the same year—1685—although upon examination this turns out not to have been true: Vivaldi was actually born in 1678. Coming next we had the Precursors of Mozart, or the "Rococo" Period; the Contemporaries of Mozart, or the "Classical" Period; and the Successors to Mozart, or the "Romantic" Period. The then-following "Modern" period could also have been called the Mozart-be-damned period or Dodecacophony. But by means of the movie Amadeus Mozart returned to earth apparently upon the Tower of Babel for at this time we suddenly had Neo-Romanticism, Post-Modernism, Feminist deconstructionism, Minimalism, Pan-Modalism, Post-Serialism, Aleatorism, and Anti-ism-ism. Where we are now is anybody’s guess, although I think Litigationism and Megamediaconglomeratism, a.k.a. you-can’t-play-that-until-you-pay-me-ism, might be applicable. Memorise all this and you’ve got an automatic A in Music History 101.

But, backing up to Fux and Schmelzer, you can see my little fairy tale is a little strained since, although they were alive at the same time, and would have been so for a longer period had Schmelzer not died at the musically portentous age of 37 years, they were actually a generation apart. However, even though his years weren’t so different, Fux was no Vivaldi, either in style or talent. Yet here we have the answer to another mystery: we know where Harnoncourt got the name for his Viennese early music group.

At the time they began recording, the Concentus Musicus played almost entirely music from this period, music previously considered awfully staid and stodgy. But the one time I saw them live on stage about this time they infused their performances with so much energy, so much plain old-fashioned fun, that they brought the music, and the audience, to life. After once having seen and heard them play one entered fully into this music with relish and the rest is legend. Harnoncourt, having traversed the whole of Bach, etc., is now conducting Brahms and Bruckner, even Smetana (!), and the Concentus Musicus is a memory except on these precious recordings, some of which were released in North America as Vanguard and Bach Guild LPs, particularly these two which appeared together as a two-LP set.

But what about the music? It has some of the same mood of nostalgic cheerfulness as the Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances, having a nice "historical" sound with skilfully played old instruments, and being rather the sort of thing you might want to hear at dinner after a busy day of torturing heretics and intriguing to overrun your cousin’s provinces. Even though he is not actually present, you will hear many echoes of Buxtehude, proving the aptness of my introductory fairy tale. Thurston Dart had issued an LP of "German String Music" which included some music from about this period, without, as the title implies, any winds or brass, but having the same mood and feeling as the strings-only selections on this disk. None of this music has a single tune you will find yourself whistling in traffic the next day, or a single dramatic moment or ingeniously intense fugal passage which would have you going back for repeated hearings, although Fux, clearly the better composer, comes closer to this than Schmelzer. The "Intrada" from the Serenada (Track 11) on the Fux disk sounds like the Salzburg Festival broadcast fanfare, in case you ever wondered what that was; this Serenada is probably the most familiar work on these disks, having been recorded several times. Concentus Musicus do not use any drums or percussion in this music although some other groups have done so. This music is fun to listen to and would be lots of fun to play, IF you had the required virtuoso skills.

Paul Shoemaker

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