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
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.
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.