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Violino oder Geige
David POHLE (1624-1695) Sonata a 8 [6:07]; Sonata a 6 [3:32]
Johann Jacob LÖWEN (1629-1703) Synfonia XXXIX [2:51]; Synfonia XLVIII [2:05]
Carlo FARINA (ca. 1600-ca. 1640) Pavana Tertia [6:42]; Capriccio stravagante [17:28]; Suite en sol mineur [8:00]
J Wilhelm FURCHHEIM (ca. 1635-1682) Sonata secunda [4:56]
August KÜHNEL (1645-1700) Aria variata en sol mineur [8:03]
Clamor Heinrich ABEL (1634-1696) Sonata sopra Cuccu [6:48]
Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (ca. 1623-1680) Sonata en ré mineur [6:25]; Sonata VIII en ré mineur [5:39]
Heinrich Ignaz Franz BIBER (1644-1704) Sonata VI en do mineur [12:37]
Johann Jacob WALTHER (ca. 1650-1717) Scherzi da violino solo (IV, VIII, X) (1676) [22:19]; Hortulus chelicus (VIII, XII, XIV, XXV) (1668) [33:07]
Ricercar Consort: (Francois Fernandez (violon); Enrico Gatti (violon); Mihoko Kimura (violon); Simon Heyerick (violon); Philippe Pierlot (bass de viole); Kaori Uemura  (bass de viole); Sophie Watillon  (bass de viole); Piet Stryckers  (bass de viole); Robert Kohnen (organ and harpsichord); Willem Jansen (organ and harpsichord); Pierre Hantaï (harpsichord); Konrad Junghänel (theorbe))
rec. March 1988, January 1989, refectoire de l’ancienne Abbaye de Stavelot, May 1990, Filosofisch Theologisch College can de Societeit van Jezus, Heverlee.
RICERCAR RIC232 [74:24 + 73:48]

The title of this release refers to the idea it is organised around: a listening tour of the influence Italy had on the earlier years of violin music in Germany. Deutschland was a battleground of sorts in the early days of string music. Both French and Italian styles of playing and composing alternated in their command of the Teutonic ear in the 1600s. This wasn’t lost on Italian artists who came to seek positions in the larger German cities. Not all of the artists presented here are native Italians; the discs are arranged showing a legacy of sorts, with later artists picking up on earlier innovations. Many of these artists made their names as performers, and the first grouping of works, subtitled “The Dresden School” indicates where they went. Of those Italian artists for violin to make their names in Germany, the liner notes mention Carlos Farina as the first. Farina wasn’t insensitive to public opinion and, from his arrival in Germany, many of his works show quite a leaning to the French style then in vogue. One such example is the Suite in G minor on disc one, comprising dances from the volumes of works he published while in Dresden. Other works of Farina, who claims the lion’s share of disc one, show the Italian style he made popular, such as is found in his sprightly Pavana Tertia.
The discs are organised into several groupings, “The Dresden School” being the first. This features, aside from Farina, two sonatas by David Pohle, two of the many Synfonias that Johann Jacob Löwen composed, and an extremely pleasant sonata by Johann Wilhelm Furchheim, who was a Dresdener by birth.
Farina’s innovations in timbre abound in the collection of dances that is the Capriccio Stravagante. Here, by turns joyous and droll, he uses the strings to imitate other instruments such as guitars, organs, and fifes, and, beating Saint-Saëns to the punch, a procession of animals, cats, dogs and fowl. Farina shows himself at his most versatile, and the Ricercar Consort performs this delight perfectly.
Other groupings for comparison are two pieces illustrating German use of violin and viola da gamba in trio sonatas. The works represented as examples are by August Kühnel and Clamor Heinrich Abel. Abel’s sphere of influence was in Hannover. Kühnel was more famous as a performer of the viola da gamba and appears to have travelled more widely. Both of these pieces are beautifully played by the ensemble; the cuckoo calls of the Abel piece repeating as the viol and continuo wrap a filigree of forest greenery around them.
The next grouping spotlights another hotbed of influential writing for violin: that of Vienna. Again the legacy of Italy shows its footprint. Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, who was a student of Vienna capellmeister and Italian native Antonio Bertoli, is represented here with two sonatas. The third work is that of Schmelzer’s student Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, whose sixth sonata - a standout in this collection - dates from 1681. These works incorporate various techniques and innovations derived from Italy, from the distinctive use of ornamentation to the retuning of the violin’s E string down a note. Biber, in his sonata, hearkens to Bach. One of the great things of this collection is not only the illustration of how German music benefited from cross-pollination, but also that it shows, from beginning to end the bridge, the arc of progression, between early string music to the sound-world of Bach.
Most of disc two is devoted to Walther, who lived in Florence during his early twenties, earning his keep as a chapel violinist for Cosimo de Medici III before returning to Dresden. There are extensively double-stopped passages and many innovations of which he may have been the earliest of champions, if not the inventor, as the liner notes hint.
The Ricercar Consort and Fernandez, in all of these performances, play with a great sense of ease and control. The recording is wonderfully balanced and, over the course of these three recording sessions spaced over three years, are very consistent in aesthetic. The liner notes on which I have relied are an extremely interesting read and show how well-thought-out this program is, if one’s ears alone couldn’t tell. Recommended for any devotee of early music.
David Blomenberg


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