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Golden Age in Brandenburg
William BRADE (1560-1630)
Suite G-Dur [6:22]
Nicolaus ZANGIUS (1570-1619)
Vater unser im Himmelreich [3:53]
Bartholomäus PRAETORIUS (c.1590-1623)
Paduana & Galliard Nr. 1 d-Moll [4:56]
Dietrich STOEFFKEN (?1600-1673)
Suite d-Moll [11:55]
Adam JARZEBSKY (c.1590-1649)
La Berlinesa [4:14]
La Königsberga [3:32]
Thomas LUPO (1571-1627)
Fantasia [2:10]
Walter ROWE (c.1584-1671)
Coranto d-Moll [0:50]
Matthew LOCKE (1621-1677)
Suite V d-Moll [7:34]
Georg Wolfgang DRUCKENMULLER (1628-1675)
Suite II G-Dur [5:07]
Ambrosius SCHERLE (c.1600-?)
Suite g-Moll [8:05]
Hieronymus KRADENTHALLER (1627-1700)
Suite I d-Moll [4:29]
Juliane Laake (viola da gamba),
Ensemble Art d’Echo
rec. 15-18 February 2016, Andreaskirche, Berlin
QUERSTAND VKJK1616 [60:06]

The music on this CD centres on the Prussian Court at Brandenburg. In the 18th Century, Frederick the Great, Johann Joachim Quanz and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach stood out as beacons at the court. Many regard the preceding years as productively barren, musically. Quite the opposite was true. This recording aims to redress the balance by exploring some of its musical riches. With one or two exceptions, many of the composers are new to me. The court at this time was dominated by English viol music, and we are treated to works by such names as Walter Rowe, William Brade and Matthew Locke.

In 1608, Johann Sigismund became Prince-Elector of Brandenburg, and he can be credited with amassing a sizeable band of musicians around him, appointing Nicolaus Zangius as leader. Zangius’ tenure was relatively short lived, since he died in 1619, when William Brade replaced him. Walter Rowe was a stellar figure during this time. He stayed at the court for six decades, and his contribution was significant, introducing English repertoire amongst other things. The orchestra was extensively pared down by Johann Sigismund’s successor, Georg Wilhelm, probably in response to external events such as the Thirty Years War. The ensemble shrunk dramatically from 37 to 7 musicians. It was left to his successor Friedrich Wilhelm, ‘The Great Elector’, to resuscitate the orchestra; he even went so far as learning to play the gamba himself.

With Juliane Laake at the helm, the Ensemble Art d’Echo consists of bass and alto gambas, Baroque harp and alto, tenor and bass recorders. Different combinations of instruments are deployed throughout. There’s no sense of uniformity or monotony here; the alternation of instrumentation provides colour contrasts. Different moods are explored. Praetorius’ Galliard is uplifting, whereas his Paduana is more sedate and serious-minded. Stoeffken’s Suite in D minor explores darker instrumental sonorities, in contrast to William Brade’s brighter scoring. Lupo’s Fantasia is quite meditative in character. If I had to choose my favourites, they would be the Druckenmüller and Kradenthaller Suites.

This is a beautifully realised programme, superbly recorded and expertly balanced. The players deliver these works with expressive warmth and rhythmic freedom. The accompanying booklet notes are exemplary, placing the composers and their music in a historical context. It all makes for a fascinating collection, and for those who admire the viola da gamba, I wouldn’t hesitate.

Stephen Greenbank



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