Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704)
Florilegium Primum 1695
Fasciculus I – Eusibia [10:38]
Fasciculus II – Sperantis Gaudia [11:07]
Fasciculus III – Gratitudo [9:37]
Fasciculus IV – Impatientia [8:58]
Fasciculus V – Sollicitudo [11:27]
Fasciculus VI – Blantitiae [10:04]
Fasciculus VII – Constantia [8:52]
Ensemble Salzburg Barok
rec. 8-11 April 2015, Festsaal, Städt, Musikschule München.

Georg Muffat acquired Parisian style in his music during his stay there between 1663-1669. His widely-travelled existence and desire to combine a diversity of musical sources is reflected in the preface to his Florilegium Primum, which was published in four languages.

The music itself is divided into 50 ‘flowers’ – the majority of which are dance movements. These are collected into seven flower ‘fascicles’ or suites to make a single bouquet or Florilegium. Muffat composed a Florilegium Secundum in 1698. Muffat considered himself to be probably the first composer to have brought the French fashion of “ballet compositions [with] their flowing and natural gait, entirely shunning all other art[ifice], intemperate runs as well as frequent and ill-sounding jumps” to wider audiences in Austria and Bohemia. D. Michael Malkiewicz’s booklet notes add plenty of interesting details about Muffat’s career, including his frustrations in Salzburg – a pattern to be found several decades later with Mozart – and how he considered his move to Passau as a “fortunate transplantation”; to continue the music/flower analogy.

These suites are delightfully inventive and supremely stylish, played with transparent textures and rhythmic verve by the compact Ensemble Salzburg Barock. If you like the suites of Lully, Couperin and Rameau, then this Florilegium will appeal greatly. The tenderness of an Air will contrast with bouncy Bourées and Gigues, and your ears will be prickled by deeply expressive moments such as the slow opening to the Ouverture to Sperantis Gaudia. Subtleties of instrumentation also provide fascinating diversion, such as the way the harpsichord shadows the melodic line in the faster second section to the Ouverture to Sollicitudo. Muffat guides our thoughts on the music with his Latin titles, and they infer levels of meaning which, as with his approach to languages and national borders, blur the boundaries between the secular and the religious.

Recordings of Muffat’s Florilegium Primum are as rare as hen’s teeth at the moment, with only a single alternative from 2000 by Ars Antiqua Austria on the Symphonia label that appears to be no longer generally available. With its beautifully recorded sound and eloquent playing, this Challenge release is a joy from start to finish.

Dominy Clements

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