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Ex Vienna: Anonymous Habsburg Violin Music from Manuscript XIV 726 of the Minoritenkonvent, Vienna
Toccata (No.94) in A minor [8:59]
Sonata (No.87) [9:02]
Sonata (No.74) in F major [6:22]
Musicalisch Urwerck (No.68) in A minor [6:17]
Sonata (No.4) in D major [5:11]
Sonata (No.77) in A major [7:26]
Sonata (No.73) in A minor [10:56]
Das Post-Horn (No.69) in B major [5:59]
Gunar Letzbor (violin)
Ars Antiqua Austria
rec. March 2013, Augustinersift St Florian
PAN CLASSICS PC10310 [60:17]

Manuscript XIV 726 in the Minorite Monastery in Vienna contains a wealth of Austrian baroque music. It includes copies of well-known works but also a number of anonymous compositions. One question that has puzzled music historians is the provenance of this latter. Do they belong to the known works in some way, or were they written by the compiler of the manuscript? Maybe there is another solution? That’s not something that this disc can directly address, other than to explain the circumstances which the notes do well. What also emerges from these anonymous pieces is their considerable virtuosity, which begins to approach Biber-like proportions in places. So, many questions still remain. Who compiled and wrote out these one hundred or so sonatas in this extensive manuscript collection, whose musical ambitions were thus preserved, and what can this collection tell us about the ‘North of the Alps’ Austrian school of composition of the late seventeenth century?
 
Each piece is assigned a title and numbering and there are eight pieces in the disc, all distinct and valuable. They conform to expected norms, opening with expressive slow movements followed by faster ones, replete with some often quite dazzling virtuosic demands. No.87 is especially valuable in its gravity and breadth though No.74, with its nobler opening and Arietta conclusion has a slightly lighter sense of gravity. No.68 in A minor is remarkably interesting in its co-opting of folkloric effects though the spruce charms of No.4 shouldn’t be overlooked. Written for violin and harpsichord this is more reminiscent of the Handelian sonata, sustained by a confident compositional technique. No.77 in A major, for solo violin and organ, offers plenty of virtuosic figuration, buoyantly played and again somewhat reminiscent of Handel’s Op.1 set.
 
Whether freely meditative yet eloquently expressive (No.73) or vigorous and shot through with hunting motifs (No.60 – Das Post-Horn), there is plenty of incident in the selected eight sonatas which seem to be reflective of the musical quality of the whole body of the sonatas contained in the manuscript. Violinist Gunar Letzbor selected the programme and plays with great facility and real verve throughout, fully communicating in a sympathetic recording the intriguing, anonymous sonatas all the while abetted by fine accompaniments from Ars Antiqua Austria.
 
Jonathan Woolf