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OF THE MONTH
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OF THE MONTH
Johann VIERDANCK (c.1605-1646)
Capricci, Canzoni und Sonaten Rostock, 1641
Canzona in C (No. 21) [04:30]
Capriccio in d minor (No. 11) [00:49]
Capriccio in a minor (No. 17) [04:11]
Capriccio in a minor (No. 2) [01:33]
Canzona in G (No. 23) [03:32]
Capriccio in a minor (No. 8) [02:26]
Passamezzo in a minor (No. 15) [07:23]
La sua Gagliarda in a minor (No. 16) [01:54]
Capriccio in d minor (No. 3) [02:45]
Capriccio in a minor (No. 20) [04:41]
Capriccio in d minor (No. 10) [01:50]
Capriccio in d minor (No. 18) [03:27]
Sonata in d minor (No. 4) [04:11]
Canzona in g minor (No. 22) [03:34]
Capriccio in d minor (No. 9) [01:01]
Capriccio in g minor (No. 19) [03:35]
Capriccio in d minor (No. 1) [01:34]
Canzona in a minor (No. 24) [05:45]
Capriccio in a minor (No. 7) [01:12]
Capriccio 'auff Quodlibethische Art' in C (No. 25) [06:20]
Parnassi musici: (Margaret MacDuffie;
Matthias Fischer; Wolfgang Greser (violin); Stephan Schroder (cello); Sergio
Azzolini (bassoon); France Beaudry-Wichmann
(double bass); Hubert Hoffmann (archlute); Martin Lutz (harpsichord; organ))
rec. July 2005, Hans Rosbaud Studio Baden-Baden, Germany.
Johann Vierdanck belongs to the large echelon which music historians
label as 'minor composers'. Often this says more about the
historians than about the composers. Many of them were highly
valued in their time, and Vierdanck was no exception. He
was born into a Saxonian-Thuringian family and started his
career as a choirboy in Dresden under Heinrich Schütz, who
described him as a "fine, modest person and making a
very good, solid beginning in composition". He became
a violinist in the court chapel in Dresden, worked at the
court in Güstrow and in 1632 travelled north to Lübeck and
Copenhagen. In the last eleven years of his life he acted
as organist in Stralsund.
In 1637 he published his first collection of music, Erster Theil
newer Pavanen, which are suites for two violins and
b.c. They are notable for being arranged by key and for
their trio-sonata texture, making Vierdanck one of the
first German composers following this Italian concept.
He was also one of the first to be influenced by the Italian
violinist Carlo Farina, who lived and worked in Dresden,
as is apparent from Vierdanck's second volume of instrumental
music, published in 1641.
It is this collection to which this disc is devoted. As Musici Parnassi
is a string ensemble, the pieces for wind instruments are
left out. That is regrettable, and one can only hope that
another ensemble will record these some day (Musica Fiata
perhaps?). But let us be thankful for what we get here, which
is first-rate music, very well performed.
The collection begins with fourteen capriccios for two or three violins
without basso continuo, nine of which have been recorded
here. According to Vierdanck these were written for pupils
to practise their technical skills, and not for public performance;
nevertheless it is absolutely right to include some of them.
They give an interesting insight into the development of
violin technique at the time, and what was expected from
violinists. Listening to these pieces it is no surprise that
so much brilliant violin music was written in Germany in
the 17th century. The Capriccio No. 8 is written for muted
strings. In some Capriccios the players are expected to play
pizzicato. The Capriccio No. 4 explores the possibilities
of polyphonic play through double-stopping. Capriccio No.
10 is also interesting: the third violin plays a bass part.
The other pieces show the influence of the emerging Italian style.
When Vierdanck worked in Dresden he must have heard Carlo
Farina, who lived and worked there as well. The last piece
on this disc, the Capricco auf Quodlibethische Art,
shows this most clearly, as Vierdanck requires effects which
are reminiscent of Farina's Capriccio stravagante.
But there is also English influence here: when Vierdanck
stayed in Güstrow, the English violinist and gambist William
Brade was working there too. It is the Passamezzo which
shows this influence most clearly, and Vierdanck adds a galliard
on the same bass motif, which is played here almost without
pause after the passamezzo.
Vierdanck gave precise instructions for the scoring of the basso continuo
part. Many of the obbligato bass parts are given to the bassoon.
This explains the presence of this instrument in the ensemble
which is otherwise strings only.
As I have already indicated Musici Parnassi gives very fine performances.
These are colourful, vivid and full of contrast. There is
only one point of criticism, and that is the frequent use
of the archlute as a kind of percussion instrument. This
seems to be the fashion of our time, and this is far from
the only recording where this fashion is followed. I am not
sure this is what the composers of the 17th century, and
particularly in Germany, expected. Sure, the rhythmic pulse
is very important and has to be paid attention to, but that
doesn't imply the use of a plucked instrument in almost every
piece, nor the use of those instruments as percussion.
This is no reason to withhold a recommendation from this disc, which
is devoted to an unjustly forgotten composer, whose music
is historically interesting and musically worthwhile.
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