JOHANN ERNST Prinz von Sachsen-Weimar (1696-1715)
The Complete Violin Concertos for Violin, Strings and Bass
Concerto V in E Major (op.1) [7.04]
Concerto IV in D Minor (op.1) [5.41]
Concerto [VII] in G Major [7.38]
Concerto III in E Minor (op.1) [5.45]
Concerto I in B Major (op.1) [7.25]
Concerto II in A Minor (op.1) [10.08]
Concerto [VIII] in G Major [5.55]
Concerto VI in G Major (op.1) [7.04]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concertos for Harpsichord after Johann Ernst Prinz von
Concerto in D Minor (BWV 987) [6.08]
Concerto in B Major (BWV 982) [7.58]
Concerto in G Major (BWV 592a) [6.39]
Anne Schumann (violin/director)
Sebastian Knebel (harpsichord)
rec. St. Bartholomäus-Kirche, Blankenburg (Harz) (Johann Ernst), 18-20
August 2014, Orchesterprobensaal des MDR, Leipzig (Bach), 16-17 December
CPO 777 998-2 [77:41]
For any lover of Bach, this release is a wonderful discovery. Johann Ernst
Prinz von Sachsen-Weimar is hardly a name much known today, but Bach thought
his work worth arranging, both for harpsichord, as here, but also in
transcriptions for organ.
Johann Ernst Prinz von Sachsen-Weimar died at 18, from cancer. He was a
virtuoso violinist but clearly also a gifted and original composer. The
ducal court of Weimar had its own orchestra, of about 14 musicians. From
1711 until 1713, Johann Ernst studied in Amsterdam where he was deeply
impressed by Italian instrumental concertos. Amsterdam was a centre of
musical culture as so much music was published there – including Vivaldi’s
in 1711. The violin concertos appear to date from
his last months, when gravely ill. Little in their Italianate style
indicates the dying composer, though there are moments in some slow
movements, such as the Largo of Concerto II which touch on the melancholy of
living. The movement is also exquisitely beautiful. The importance of Johann
Ernst’s work is not simply his compositions — of which there were 19
instrumental pieces — but the encouragement he gave to the development of
the instrumental concerto in Europe.
Bach was not merely a fellow composer but a friend. On the Third Sunday
after Trinity in 1717, the cantata Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis
21) was performed as Bach’s personal gift to Johann Ernst. This would be the
last religious service the young composer would attend in the Weimar castle
The relationship with Bach was not the only significant one. The six
violin concertos of Opus 1. were prepared for publication by Telemann, and
were printed in Frankfurt.
The value of this CD is that we hear more than the Bach transcriptions –
these are set alongside the violin concertos themselves. Johann Ernst’s
pieces are not of merely historical interest. They are tuneful, splendidly
constructed, with neat turns of phrase. Most movements are brief; some, such
as the final movement of Concerto III, only a minute long. Final movements
are generally brief.
Performances and recording are both excellent. There is no sense that the
concertos have been treated as mere preludes to the Bach arrangements. They
are realized as the imaginative and original works they are
. Annette Schumann is described as primus inter
as soloist, playing with an even tone, clearly relishing the
opportunities offered in this music. The Ensemble ‘Fürsten-Musik’, a group
of eight or nine players perform with a keen sense of rhythm and ensemble.
Performances are very much in period and historically informed.
Recording quality in both venues is excellent.
This is a wonderful discovery, to which I shall return often.