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Johann Friedrich MEISTER (c1638-1697)
Il Giardino del Piacere
La Musica Terza in A major [11:59]
La Musica Settima in F major [10:58]
La Musica Ottava in B flat major [10:07]
La Musica Nona in G minor [8:56]
La Musica Prima in G major [12:52]
La Musica Duodecima in E flat major [12:10]
Johannes Pramsohler (violin); Roldán Bernabé (violin); Gulrim Choi (cello); Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord)
Ensemble Diderot
world premičre recordings
rec. 21-24 June 2015, Palmensaal, Orangerie Neuer Garten, Potsdam
AUDAX RECORDS ADX13705 [66:45]

The early music group Musica Antiqua Köln, founded in 1973 by Reinhard Goebel, disbanded in 2007 after more than thirty years of touring, recording and performing. Their final issued recording was in 2011 of Johann Friedrich Meister’s Il Giardino del Piacere, originally earmarked for televised broadcast in 2004. Six of the collection of twelve sonatas, the composer’s only extant instrumental music, were released. In their latest album, the Ensemble Diderot, founded in 2008 by violinist Johannes Pramsohler, here completes the Musica Antiqua Köln's recording project, offering the remaining six sonatas. The ensemble, as its promotional material states, "... dedicates itself to the exploration and performance of the Baroque trio sonata repertoire of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and performs on original instruments. The ensemble is based in Paris and owes its name to the French author, thinker, and philosopher Denis Diderot."
Not that much is known about the German composer and organist Johann Friedrich Meister and even his date of birth has been disputed in some quarters. Many consider it on or around 1638, but some sources state a later date of 12 February 1655, citing an entry in a baptismal register of one Johann Meister in the Hannover area. What is definite is that in 1677 he became music director of the court Kapelle of Duke Ferdinand Albrecht I of Brunswick-Lüneburg at Schloss Bevern. Arguments about pay between the duke and his musicians resulted in Meister being imprisoned in October 1678. He eventually escaped with the help of friends and took up another post in the service of Bishop August Friedrich of Lübeck at Eutin. In April 1683 he became organist of the Marienkirche, Flensburg, where he was expected to supply sacred vocal music. He became friendly with the ducal family at nearby Schloss Glücksburg. His instrumental music may have been composed for this family, who became godparents to two of his children.

The twelve sonatas, or suites that comprise Il giardino del piacere, each have between five and eight movements, and are scored for a trio sonata combination. They display inventive skill and ingenuity and are, without doubt, the product of a fertile and resourceful mind. The Ensemble Diderot’s polished and stylish playing, rhythmic freedom and flawless ensemble show these delightful works in the best possible light. Slow movements are eloquent and seductive, overflowing with ardent lyricism. Dance movements are rhythmically buoyant and seductive. Phrasing throughout is imaginative, and ornamentation is tastefully and intelligently applied.

It has been interesting revisiting the Musica Antiqua Köln recording, which I haven’t listened to for some time. Whilst I wouldn’t call into question the integrity of the performances of this earlier traversal, the sound quality of both sets deserves a mention. Goebel and his players are more closely miked and feel more laden at times, with the harpsichord tending to dominate. The Ensemble Diderot sit in a more comfortable aural perspective, their sound being warmer and more intimate. Instrumental detail is more defined and less congested and makes me wish they would issue a second volume to complete the set.

This new release has given me a great deal of pleasure, it’s an absolute delight.

Stephen Greenbank



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