Johann ROSENMÜLLER (1619-1684)
Sonata Seconda [7.48]
Sonata settima [7.11]
Sonata nona [4.46]
Sonata decima [5.24]
Sonata undecima [4.34]
Sonata duodecima [4.04]
Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626-1690)
Sonata prima [6.31]
Sonata terza [4.53]
Sonata sesta [8.05]
Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1682)
Sinfonia: XI [11.04]
XVIII [4.26]
XXII [7.54]
Rare Fruits Council/Manfredo Kraemer
rec. 23-27 September 2010, church of St.André (74 Doucy), France
AMBRONAY AMY 028 [81.53];
It was a great joy and pleasure on a recent trip to Venice to hear in the tiny church of St. Giovanni near the Rialto Bridge a concert which included a sonata by Stradella. That sonata seemed to sum up the city and period. This very generously filled CD is full of such pieces and, for me, happy memories.
Certainly two of the three composers were somewhat dubious characters. When I was teaching I used to do an end of term lesson called the ‘Strange deaths of composers’. Stradella was mentioned: he fell in love with the mistress of his employer, survived an assassination attempt but was eventually murdered.
Rosenmüller, active at St. Thomas’s church in Leipzig, was accused of pederasty and made a swift exit only to find his feet and a patron in Venice. However his sexual proclivities became, if the rumours were correct, quite famous. It seems however that Giovanni Legrenzi, born in the nearby town of Bergamo, was quite ‘normal’, whatever that might mean. In one of the essays, enthusiastically written by Manfredo Kraemer who directs the ‘Rare Fruits Council’ called catchily “A Kircherian Scientific Experiment (which science would certainly deem unacceptable)” he speculates how it might have been if the three composers had met or even conversed together over some vino.
To most ears the style of each may be difficult to tell apart but Kraemer points out that Stradella was “of a future age” and may not have got on well with the older men with their more serious polyphony and fugues. Kraemer asks, “Did they listen to each other’s works? Did they meet in a tavern…”? Anyway if they didn’t meet in the 1670s then Kraemer has devised a meeting now.
In Rosenmüller there is a sense of the grand baroque style of Monteverdi despite the episodic nature of his sonatas and indeed of many of the other works too. He possessed a sense of drama. Listen especially to the Sonata nono. He can also be quite seductive in his harmony as in the Sonata seconda. Some works are profound in an unexpected way. Most of the Sonata sesta by Legrenzi is slow and full of delicious suspensions which fail to cadence for well over two minutes from the start. There is a livelier section briefly before reverting to the initial mood to end proceedings.
Stradella, who calls his works Sinfonias as opposed to the fading terminology of the sonata can be quite bizarre and modernistic. His Sinfonia XVIII has some extraordinary syncopations. They are like nothing else I know from this time.
Kraemer writes “we hope you will love this music as much as we do, dear listeners”. There is no doubt that the musicians’ joy in these pieces is carried through in their lively and vital performances.
The instrumentation for each work is varied and the order of the CD is attractively arranged. For example the Sonata seconda by Rosenmüller is for two violins. It is followed by Legrenzi’s Sonata for four violins. Preceding both is Stradella’s Sinfonia XI for violin and bass and so one. The continuo or bass line is divided between an archlute, a harpsichord and an organ, again adding aural variety.
Peter Wollny, in a more biographical and analytical essay, comments “there is a wide stylistic range that is the distinguishing mark of Venetian music in the last third of the 17th Century”.
The booklet also includes black and white photos of the happy and smiling performers.
This is not just a disc for specialists. By its exemplary musicianship with often breath-taking virtuosity (listen especially to Stradella’s Sinfonia XI), superb presentation, beautifully balanced sound-picture and sheer musical pleasure this is a disc for any lover of the baroque or of chamber music.
Gary Higginson 

Not just a disc for specialists. Exemplary musicianship, breath-taking virtuosity and superb presentation. Sheer musical pleasure.