biography of Sophie Erdmuthe von Nassau-Saarbrücken is typical
of the life of an aristocratic lady of the 18th century. She
was born in 1725 as daughter of Count Georg Wilhelm von Erbach
(1686-1757). Her family was culturally sophisticated and had
its own orchestra. Her uncle Friedrich Carl took music lessons
from Georg Philipp Telemann, when music director in Frankfurt.
He even set some texts by Friedrich Carl to music. And after
Telemann had moved to Hamburg he dedicated some of his music
to his former pupil.
1742 Sophie married: her father arranged the marriage, although
she was allowed to choose between four different candidates.
She chose Count Wilhelm Heinrich von Nassau-Saarbrücken, and
after their marriage they went to live in a palace in Saarbrücken.
Whereas her husband made a career as an officer in the French
army, she took care of her children. She gave birth to five,
two of whom died shortly after they were born.
was well educated, and had a good knowledge of the French language,
and was interested in literature and philosophy. She came into
contact with the French 'encyclopédistes'. One of them, Denis
Diderot, dedicated one of his plays to her, 'Père de famille',
which promotes the ideas of the Enlightenment in regard to education.
social and political upheaval of the French revolution had a
big influence on her life. The family estates in the upper Saar
were part of an enclave which belonged to the kingdom of France.
Sophie, who was often accompanied by French aristocrats who
had fled France, moved elsewhere as her subjects were willing
to join revolutionary France. The large family library was confiscated.
of the inventory was a book with songs, dedicated to her by
an unknown person: 'Recueil d'airs avec accompagnement et guitarr'.
This book was found by a German scientist in an antique book
shop in Paris and handed over to the state archive of Saarland
in 1995. This disc contains a selection of songs from this book.
All are on French texts, and most are from 18th-century operas
by composers like Philidor, Rameau and Rousseau. Unfortunately
the booklet doesn't give any information about which composer
wrote which song. All pieces are one-part and set for guitar
on a single five-line stave in the notation still used today
for guitar. All songs are set for high voice, hence the performance
here with soprano and/or tenor.
songs are divided here into four sections: 'shepherd's idyll',
'the happiness of love', 'jealousy' and 'humorous songs'. They
are rather simple and straightforward, and technically not very
demanding. The interpreters and the recording engineer are aware
of this. The acoustics are very intimate: it sounds like the
musicians are performing in a living room for a small audience.
The singers also have the right approach as they don't try to
do too much. I have the feeling, though, that in particular
Markus Schäfer needs some time to adapt to the character of
this repertoire. The guitar accompaniment also contributes to
the intimate atmosphere of this recording.
the quality of the songs make it a trial to listen to them at
a stretch it is nice that we also get two instrumental pieces
which have a little more substance. Telemann is an obvious choice,
considering his ties with Sophie's family. Thomas Marc is a
little-known French composer, probably chosen because of Sophie's
great interest in Gallic culture. The treble viol was very popular
in France in the 18th century and among German composers who
were under French influence. It produces a very delicate sound,
and Simone Eckert shows a good feeling for this.
don't know whether to recommend this recording. It gives a good
picture of the kind of music which was played and sung in the
era preceding the French Revolution, but its substance is limited.
And for those who don't understand French it is even harder to
enjoy these songs as the booklet doesn't give an English translation.
As positive as I am about the performances somehow I don't think
I am going to listen to this disc very often. It is most suitable
for those who have a special interest in the culture of the 18th
century, but far less for the public at large.
Johan van Veen