Johann Caspar Ferdinand FISCHER (1656-1746)
Elisabeth Joyé (harpsichord, organ*)
rec. 13-14 October 2014, Temple du Foyer de l'Âme, Paris* & 18-19 January 2015, Galerie des Affaires Étrangères of the Bibliothèque de Versailles (Yvelines), France DDD ENCELADE ECL1402 [66:44]
Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer is pretty well-known by
name. He is mentioned in books on music history and particularly books
about Johann Sebastian Bach, as his collection of preludes and fugues,
published in 1702 under the title of Ariadne Musica, was one
of the sources of inspiration for the latter's Well-tempered
Clavier. However, he was an important composer in his own right
who not only wrote keyboard music but also a large number of sacred
and secular works. A considerable part of his output has been lost,
especially in the realm of secular music.
Fischer was born in Schönfeld (Krásno) in Bohemia and spent his youth
in Schlackenwerth (Ostrov). Around 1693 Georg Bleyer was a member of
the court chapel in Schlackenwerth, and it is probably through him that
Fischer got acquainted with the French style, as Bleyer had visited
Paris to study Lully's music, resulting in a collection of orchestral
overtures in French style. Fischer did the same: his Journal de
Printems was published in 1695. Whether he ever went to Paris himself
is unclear. In Schlackenwerth the position of Kapellmeister
became vacant in the late 1680s; it is not known exactly when the incumbent
Augustin Pfleger died. Fischer was appointed his successor. When Duke
Julius Franz died without a male heir, the Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg was
divided. As Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden had married the Duke’s
heiress, he became the ruler of the Duchy and moved his court to Schlackenwerth.
In 1705 the court moved to Rastatt, but Fischer joined it only ten years
later. He held his position as Kapellmeister until his death.
In his oeuvre Fischer mixes the various styles in vogue in his time.
The orchestral suites in the Journal de Printems are purely
French, in his vocal music he is under the influence of the Italian
style and in his keyboard music these two styles are mixed with the
German contrapuntal tradition.
His keyboard works have come down to us in four editions. In 1696 he
published a collection of eight harpsichord suites under the title of
Les pièces de clavessin, which were reprinted only two years
later as Musicalisches Blumen-Büschlein. It was dedicated to
the wife of his employer, Franziska Sibylle Auguste of Saxe-Lauenburg.
Every suite opens with a prelude of an improvisatory character, which
is followed by a different number of movements. Here two suites are
performed. In the Suite No. 5 the prelude is followed by an
aria with eight variations. The Suite No. 8 comprises a prelude
and a chaconne.
The chaconne is one of the main forms, based on a basso ostinato,
a repeated bass pattern above which a contrapuntal web is woven. It
is close to the passacaglia, and both regularly appear in the
second collection of harpsichord works, Musicalischer Parnassus,
whose year of publication is not known. It comprises nine suites which
all bear the name of one of the muses: Parnassus, Clio, Calliope, Melpomene,
Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Terpsichore, Polyhymnia and Urania. Here again
we find a mixture of styles. Urania opens with a toccata which
includes some dissonant chords. This suite includes the four dances
which had become standard in German keyboard suites since Froberger:
allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. However, Fischer included
some other dances, known at the time as galanteries, such as
a gavotte and a rigaudon. The latter has a double, as was common
in French harpsichord music. The suite ends with a pair of menuets and
a passacaglia. More galanteries are included in Melpomene
which opens with a praeludium which is followed by an allemande,
a passepied and a rondeau. The latter was another fashionable form in
France. This and the galanteries - which also appear in some
of Bach's suites - suggest that this collection is of a considerably
later date than the suites of 1696. Melpomene ends with a gigue
and a short chaconne. Elisabeth Joyé has also included two individual
movements from other suites: the praeludium harpeggiato which
opens Clio, and the chaconne which closes Euterpe.
The latter is played on the organ, like the pieces from two other collections
of organ works. As was already mentioned above, Ariadne musica neo-organoedum
was published in Schlackenwerth in 1702 and includes 20 short preludes
and fugues in different keys: 19 of the 24 major and minor keys plus
an E in Phrygian mode. In this project Fischer cooperated closely with
the organ builder Abraham Stark. They tuned the choir organ of the Premonstratensian
monastery of Tepl near Marienbad, bordering on the Schlackenwerth estates,
to something approaching equal temperament in 1700. In a later edition
of Ariadne musica Fischer added five ricercares for various
feasts of the ecclesiastical year in a more traditional style. The present
disc closes with a ricercar for Easter which includes the melody of
the hymn Christ ist erstanden.
The second collection of organ music includes eight preludes and fugues
in the eight ecclesiastical modes (Praeludia et Fugae per 8 tonos
ecclesiasticos). The date of the original edition is not known;
a reprint appeared in 1732 under the title of Blumen Strauss.
The pieces have the title of prelude and fugue but in fact the fugues
comprise a sequence of short fugues - the Praeludium I played
here has six of them - and a finale where Fischer returns to
the more free style of the prelude. Whereas the Ariadne musica
was mainly part of a scientific experiment, these preludes and fugues
have a liturgical function, as the original title of the collection
For those who are not acquainted with Fischer's keyboard works,
this disc offers a perfect introduction. We have extracts from his four
collections of keyboard music, played on a copy of a Fleischer harpsichord
of 1720 and on an organ of 2009 built after German 18th-century models.
Elisabeth Joyé is a fine player and under her hands we get fully idiomatic
interpretations of both harpsichord and organ works. In the latter I
would probably have liked a stronger differentiation between good and
bad notes. The acoustic is pretty reverberant and this requires an articulation
which may seem a bit exaggerated. However, this is only a minor point.
It is to be hoped that a disc like this will result in a stronger interest
in a composer who deserves to receive more attention.
For those who would like to have more from Fischer, I mention the complete
recording of the Musicalisches Blumen-Büschlein by Olga Martynova
(Caro Mitis, 2009). The Musicalischer Parnassus has been recorded
by Luc Beauséjour (Naxos, 2000; 2 separate discs) and by Mitzi Meyerson
(MDG, 2000). Ariadne musica and Blumen Strauss are
available in a recording by Serge Schoonbroodt (Aeolus, 2002).
Johan van Veen www.musica-dei-donum.org twitter.com/johanvanveen
Disc contents Uranie [19:15] Melpomene [7:40] Clio:
Praeludium harpeggiato [0:42]
Suite No. 8 [6:18]
Suite No. 5 [9:29]
Prelude and fugue No. 10 in F* [1:20]
Prelude and fugue No. 1 in d minor* [7:21]
Prelude and fugue No.13 in G* [1:32]
Prelude and fugue No. 1 in C* [1:15]
Prelude and fugue No. 15 in a minor* [1:21]
Prelude and fugue No. d minor* [1:48] Euterpe:
Chaconne* [4:16] Ricercar pro Festis Paschalibus* [4:21]