Gasparo Fritz is one of the many composers from the mid-18th century
whose name and works have disappeared under the dust of history.
He was a respected musician, though, who once performed at the
Concert Spirituel in Paris, and whose music was appreciated by
Handel and Charles Burney. His Christian name Gasparo is the Italian
form of his original name, Kaspar. His father, Philipp, was from
Celle in Germany and had settled in Geneva as a music teacher.
According to Charles Burney he was a pupil of Giovanni Battista
Somis in Turin, but in 1736 he was back in Geneva where he stayed
the rest of his life. He seems to have moved in aristocratic circles
as the dedications of his various publications indicate. He acted
as director of musical performances by English residents of Geneva
and also as a teacher, apparently to great acclaim.
Charles Burney praised him for his expressive powers and Handel judged
his sonatas opus 1 positively, but his playing didn't meet
with universal approval. His concerts in France were not really
successful as a result of his Italian style of playing, and
when an amateur violinist from Basle heard him play, he found
his ornamentation excessive. He stated that Fritz sometimes
lost his rhythm and accused him of lack of musical taste.
Fritz's compositions are various in character and technical requirement.
The sonatas opus 2 and even more so the sonatas opus 3 require
considerable technical skills, whereas the trios opus 4 are
far less demanding. The fact that the Sonatas opus 2 are set
for either violin or transverse flute reflects the growing
popularity of the flute at the time, especially among amateurs.
Five of the six sonatas are in three movements - only Sonata
III has four - and four follow the modern fashion of beginning
with a slow movement. That is to say: three of those four
opening movements are andantes, which are not meant to be
really slow. Four sonatas end with variations on a chaconne
In the programme notes Nicola Schneider writes: "The fourth sonata
is very impressive, which in the first movement shows thematic
echoes of the sonata in B minor for flute and harpsichord
BWV 1030 by Johann Sebastian Bach". Surprisingly she
doesn't mention the second movement of the Sonata I which
begins with the same motif as the siciliana of Bach's Sonata
in E flat (BWV 1031).
The style of the sonatas can be described as galant which was one of
the main fashions in music at the time. But, as already indicated,
this doesn't mean these sonatas are easy. One of the aspects
which demands great skill is the ornamentation. Claire Genewein
adds extensive cadenzas at the end of some movements. This
seems to be in line with Fritz's intentions: the adagio of
the Sonata II contains a long cadenza written out by Fritz
himself. There is a considerable amount of improvisation in
these performances - the cadenzas are good examples of that.
It is also part of the realisation of the basso continuo.
Sometimes I feel the almost concertante style of playing the
bass part is at the expense of the rhythmic support of the
It isn't always easy here to distinguish between what exactly Fritz
wrote down or indicated and what is the result of the performers'
decisions. One example is that some passages - in particular
the last movements of the Sonatas II and IV - are played by
the cello and the harpsichord without the flute. But I haven't
heard anything which crosses the line of what is stylistically
I have really enjoyed listening to this disc. Fritz's various musical
ideas and melodic invention have resulted in a set of entertaining
sonatas. With their creative and imaginative performances the
three artists serve them well. This disc is a fine addition to
the catalogue, and has made me curious about the rest of Fritz's
Johan van Veen