The Partiturbuch was
a manuscript collection put together by Jacob Ludwig (1623-1698).
Ludwig was a court musician, first in Wolfenbüttel and then
in Gotha. In 1662, when working in Gotha, he presented this
anthology of more or less contemporary instrumental music,
written and performed at the various courts of Germany, as
a birthday present, to the Duke August who had been his employer
in Wolfenbüttel. The Partiturbuch contains around
a hundred instrumental works by a variety of composers and
a selection of these have been recorded by the Ensemble Echo
de Danube on this new CD.
the most important figure represented here is Bertali, a
native of Verona, who worked for members of the Hapsburg
court from 1622 onwards; from 1649 he was Kappelmeister (in
succession to Giovanni Valentini) at the imperial court in
Vienna. Bertali is represented more extensively than any
other composer in the Partiturbuch, a just reflection
of his importance. Himself a virtuoso violinist he did much
to ensure the dominance of Italian taste in most of the German-speaking
courts in the middle years of the Seventeenth Century. Though
it was for his operas, oratorios and church music that he
was most famous in his own day, it seems chiefly to have
been his instrumental music which has been played and recorded
in our own day – as, for example, in a recording of his Sonate Festive by
Musica Fiata on CPO and a miscellany of sonatas and chaconnes
by the Ricercar Consort on Mirare.
(Though his ‘Lamento della Regina d’Inhilterra’ did turn
up on Anne Sofie von Otter’s 1998 CD Lamenti). Bertali’s
Sonata in D minor is for two violins, viola da gamba, bassoon
and harpsichord, while the Sonata in G major is for two violins
and bassoon (with harpsichord). Both are enjoyable, witty
pieces, well performed here. More remarkable is Ciaccona
in C major for violin and harpsichord – which gets a decent,
if not absolutely sparking, performance.
It is good to see the music of Capricornus represented.
Born into a family of Hungarian refugees, Capricornicus was
a well-educated humanist who studied in Vienna (where he
could hardly have escaped the influence of Bertali) before
working in modern Bratislava and then becoming Kapellmeister
in Stuttgart from 1657. An interesting figure, his Ciaccona
is an attractive and inventive piece, which has an almost
French stateliness about it.
Johann Heinrich Schmeltzer was the first native Austrian
ever to be Kapellmeister at the Hapsburg court. His reputation
as both violinist and composer of instrumental music stood
very high in his own time and his work is increasingly finding
its way on to CD. Here he is represented by an expressive
Sonata variata, full of beautiful touches.
The name of Adam Drese was only a name I had seen in books
before hearing this CD. He became Kappelmeister at Weimar
and later held the same post at Jena, after studying with
the important figure of Marco Scacchi in Warsaw. Drese travelled
quite widely, at the behest of his first master, Duke Wilhelm
IV of Saxe-Weimar. Eventually he became Kappelmeister at
Arnstadt, and towards the end of his life became a Pietist
of strict beliefs – it is said that he burned most of his
secular compositions. Jacob Ludwig’s compilation preserves
some work that might, perhaps, have been consigned to the
flames. On this evidence Drese was a thoroughly competent
composer, well steeped in the dominant Italian style.
Nathanael Schnittelbach is another whose music is very
rarely heard today. Michael Fuersts’s booklet notes tell
us that he came from Gdansk to Lübeck in 1655 as a municipal
musician. He studied with the slightly better known Nicolaus
Bleyer and furthered his career by the time-honoured tactic
of marrying his teacher’s daughter. He was recognised as
one of the finest violinists in Germany. His Ciaccona, which
closes the CD, is a lovely piece, musically subtle and emotionally
Michael Nicolai ended his career in Stuttgart, having earlier
worked in Thuringia, as a member of the court orchestra of
the Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg. From 1655 he was a court musician
in Stuttgart. The two compositions by which he is represented
here are not especially individual (though the writing for
the bassoon in the Sonata in C is engaging), but are assured
and pleasant examples of their genre.
is an entertaining and instructive collection, which whets
the appetite for more music by these composers. Recorded
in clear, well-balanced sound, the performances are entirely
competent and sympathetic without being in any way remarkable.