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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

AVAILABILITY

John Schneiderman

Johann KROPFGANS (1708-c.1770)
Sonata in G Major [11:51]
Divertimento in F Major [13:37]
Concerto in c minor [14:18]
Divertimento in B-flat Major [13:32]
Sonata in D major [11:49]
Galanterie (John Schneiderman, lute; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; William Skeen, cello)
Recorded April 11, 2004. Recording location not specified.
PROFIL PH 05012 [69:19]

 

The lute reigned supreme as the instrument of choice throughout the Renaissance, but waned in popularity in the seventeenth century as keyboard instruments became more refined and widespread. Yet, it held its own in the Baroque era in certain regions, particularly in France, where large quantities of dance suites were written. Toward the end of the century, the lute enjoyed something of a revival as it became extremely popular in German-speaking countries, and in regions of central Europe.

Today, it has found a home as a continuo instrument, often preferred to the harpsichord for its rich and gentle tone, and its warmer sound. Artists such as Stephen Stubbs, Lucas Harris, Daniel Swenberg and Michael Fields have brought the Baroque Lute into a new daylight, championing, post-Renaissance compositions and making it the continuo instrument of choice in a large body of vocal and chamber music.

This disc of works by Johann Kropfgans brings the lute into prominence as a chamber music partner, and although the pieces are simple and most likely intended originally for amateurs, this fine ensemble brings the music to life with all the care and dedication that one might expect to go into a disc of Bach or Handel.

Comparatively little is known about Kropfgans except that he came from a prominent family of musicians and that he and other members of his family served in some high profile court positions. Heavily influenced by the work of Sylvius Leopold Weiss, Kropfgans was apparently well respected during his lifetime, and much of his work remained in publication through prestigious firms as late as the middle nineteenth century. But what they might lack in virtuoso sophistication, they more than make up for in grace and charm.

As formal structures, they are heavily indebted to the French dance suites. Influences aside, Kropfgans interpolates some local color with the inclusion of dances such as the Polaca and Polonaise, most closely associated with Poland.

The ensemble Galanterie acquit themselves very well in these elegant and simple performances. If you are seeking some new level profundity, don’t expect it here. This is music that is easy to hear and easy to execute and serves well for entertainment or background. You will not find many sweeping gestures or unusual twists of harmony. But the lovely combination of instrumental timbres and the sheer grace with which these musicians play will set you on a splendid little journey of discovery, and this is a worthy introduction to a composer who may not have had Weiss’ or Hagen’s technical prowess, but nonetheless had some nice ideas to share.

Program notes and production values are above reproach, indeed, it would not be too strong a statement to advise other producers to take a good long look at the booklet essay for this recording. Lengthy, scholarly and thorough, it is also an excellent history lesson. Captivating and interesting, it is what the material that accompanies a recording should be.

Profil is a label heretofore unknown to me, and seems to be a by-product of the Helmuth Rilling dominated Hännsler Classics. If this is the kind of product that they intend to offer in the future, then long may they live.

A lovely little outing, most highly recommended.

Kevin Sutton



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