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The Dresden Album - Chamber Music from the Dresden Court
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Trio sonata in g minor (HWV 393) [10:27]
Johann Joseph FUX (1660-1741)
Trio sonata in A (K 340) [9:12]
Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758)
Trio sonata in D (FWV N,D4) [11:50]
František TŮMA (1704-1774)
Trio sonata in c minor [5:38]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Trio sonata in E flat (TWV 42,Es1) [15:00]
George Frideric HANDEL
Trio sonata in E (HWV 394) [10:58]
Ensemble Diderot (Johannes Pramsohler, Varoujan Doneyan (violin), Gulrim Choi (cello), Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord))
rec. 2013, Auditorium Marcel Landowski, Paris, France
AUDAX RECORDS ADX13701 [63:11]

One of the main music centres in Germany in the first half of the 18th century was Dresden. Its court chapel has an illustrious history which goes back to the mid-16th century when Dresden embraced the Reformation. It was in its prime when Heinrich Schütz was Kapellmeister. It always had brilliant musicians and composers in its ranks. These included the violinists Carlo Farina, Johann Jacob Walther and Johann Paul von Westhoff and the organist Matthias Weckmann. A second flourishing period started with the accession of Elector Friedrich August I of Saxony (1670–1733) who in 1697 converted to the Catholic faith in order to acquire the Polish crown. From that date he was known as August 'The Strong'.

This disc doesn't include anything by Johann Georg Pisendel, the most brilliant violinist of his time in Germany. Even so, he plays a significant role in the background as Reinhard Goebel explains in his liner-notes to the present disc. In 1712 he became a member of the court chapel and soon started to travel across Europe, mostly in the retinue of Crown Prince Friedrich August II during his grand tour. He visited Paris where he met Jean-Féry Rebel and François Couperin. In Venice he became acquainted with the likes of Albinoni and Vivaldi. Both gave him some of their violin sonatas as presents. Officially he studied with Vivaldi, but the Italian master considered him his friend and musically his match rather than his pupil. Pisendel not only took with him the music which was given to him but also actively collected pieces for the court chapel. Throughout his career he copied music which came into his hands. Today the fruits of his labour are preserved in the so-called Schrank II (cupboard No. 2) in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek. This includes a large amount of music by composers who were for some time officially connected to the court in Dresden but also by composers who sent pieces to the court. Italian music takes a specially important place, among them pieces by Vivaldi, This is the direct result of Pisendel's stay in Venice which kindled his interest in the Italian style.

The music on this disc bears witness to that influence. The Italian style is embedded in the German tradition one of whose features is the importance of counterpoint. The programme opens and closes with trio sonatas by Handel. That may seem rather strange. However, Handel visited Dresden in 1719 on the occasion of the marriage of Friedrich August II and Maria Josepha, eldest daughter of the Habsburg emperor Joseph I. Cupboard II includes several orchestral scores by Handel, especially overtures from his operas and early versions of his concerti grossi op. 3. The authenticity of the two sonatas played here is questioned, especially because they don't sound very much like Handel and in the rest of his oeuvre there are barely any reminiscences of these pieces. Goebel argues that the music written for Dresden was not allowed to be copied. That seems hardly a convincing argument: Handel surely didn't need to copy what he had written himself in order to reuse some of the thematic material. The question whether these sonatas are indeed by Handel will probably never be definitively answered.

Another composer who was present in 1719 in Dresden was Telemann, a personal friend of Handel and of Pisendel. The latter was one of those who subscribed to Telemann's Musique de table. That is the reason the Sonata in E flat from the first Production is included here. Johann Friedrich Fasch was one of the most respected composers of his time, and regularly wrote music for the court in Dresden. Cupboard II includes a considerable number of pieces from his pen, among them the Sonata in D (FWV N, D4) which includes an especially expressive affettuoso. The Sonata in A (K 340) by Fux was included in the collection through Johann Joachim Quantz who had entered the chapel in 1716 and went to Vienna the next year to study counterpoint with him. He may also have been responsible for the inclusion of the Sonata in c minor by Tůma, another pupil of Fux. This work was used for liturgical purposes.

Pisendel was very much a representative of the goûts réünis which was dominant in Germany. Goebel suggests that he didn't like modern fashions, such as the style of Giuseppe Tartini. That could explain why the compositions on this disc are dominated by counterpoint, and that includes the Sonata in E flat by Telemann - himself a composer who always embraced new trends - and Handel. The latter is not immediately associated with counterpoint, but Handel would not be Handel if he was not willing to adapt his style to what was required. He must have been very well aware of the dominant taste in Dresden.

The Ensemble Diderot was founded in 2009 and this is their debut disc. A very fine disc it is, as the playing is excellent, and does ample justice to the style of the repertoire. It is fitting that Reinhard Goebel wrote the liner-notes. He has an intimate knowledge of music life in Dresden in Pisendel's time and the ensemble plays in the style we know from his former ensemble Musica antiqua Köln, although the sound is a little less penetrating. The main thing is that rhetoric and Affekt which were such important features of the German style, are the leading principles here.

Johan van Veen



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