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Friedrich Wilhelm RUST (1739-1796)
Der Clavierpoet
Sonata in G minor [17:12]
Sonata in D major (1794) [22:06]
XII Variazioni in A# sopra la Canzonetta: Blühe liebes Veilchen (1794) [11:04]
Sonata in C major [25:36]
Jermaine Sprosse (clavichord, fortepiano)
rec. 5-8 April 2016, Radiostudio SRF Zurich
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88985369272 [75:58]

Friedrich Wilhelm Rust was a pupil of C.P.E. Bach. Detmar Huchting's booklet note tells us how intertwined with the Bach family Rust and his elder brother were, the latter having played as a violinist under J.S. Bach’s direction. Friedrich Wilhelm’s earlier teacher was Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. He was later to study under both C.P.E. Bach and Franz Benda, and he spent some educational time in Italy.

Rust was both a keyboard virtuoso (and an equally fine violinist). This programme takes us from an early Sonata in G minor to the Sonata in D minor, his last work in the genre. Jermaine Sprosse plays the particularly fine Sonata in G minor and the Sonata in C major on a gorgeous-sounding clavichord. It was builtt by Thomas Steiner based on a 1772 instrument by Christian Gottlob Hubert. Clavichords are quiet instruments. Sprosse takes the subtlety of dynamic down to a whisper at times, though the spectacular opening shows how much of a musical storm can be whipped up by playing “through” the strings and with a surprising amount of gusto. While expressive charm and bags of contrast and surprise characterise this early sonata, the Sonata in C major is clearly written specifically for the clavichord; “Bebung” or vibrato markings are a decisive indicator. The influence of C.P.E. Bach can be felt here as it can be elsewhere, but Rust’s skill and originality are the strongest impression created from these works. Rust clearly had a flamboyant side, and you can imagine the powdered ladies being delighted and royally entertained by the musical sparks flying from this politest of instruments.

Sprosse plays the Sonata in D major on a fortepiano from 1792 by J.A Stein, one of the leading makers of his day. The instrument is thankfully tuned to match the clavichord. It has a nice tone and plenty of flexibility, though with that particular pungency of attack that is very much part of its nature. There is a music-box charm to some of this music, heightening the contrasts of dynamic, rhapsodic freedom and drama when they occur. You can see with the duration of these works that there is no shortage of content. Rust’s atmospheric introductions and extended development sections can compete with Haydn and foreshadow Beethoven.

The 12 variations on the canzonetta “Blühe liebes Veilchen” by J.P.A. Schulz are suggested as perhaps having been intended for Rust’s pupils. There can be little doubt that they would have relished being allowed to enjoy some playing in the popular style of the day, with witty inflections and a wide variety of moods in these colourful variations.

It is a superbly recorded release. My only point of criticism is that the photo of the fortepiano appears next to text about the clavichord and vice versa, but this is a small point and one perhaps dictated by layout issues. We are dutifully pointed towards a rarely-heard composer from that somewhat obscure period between the more easily defined peaks of the Baroque and Classical. We discover that Friedrich Wilhelm Rust’s music is genuinely brilliant and richly deserving of our full attention. The photogenic Jermaine Sprosse is an ideal champion of this composer of remarkable flair. It would appear there is much more to be brought to light, including songs, choral works and chamber music. Let the cry go out, “we want more Rust…!”

Dominy Clements



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