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The Violin's Delight - A Garden of Pleasure
Heinrich LIZKAU (17th C)
Sonata Violino Solo cum Basso Continuo (1657) [11:21]
Philipp Friedrich BÖDDECKER (1607-1683)
Sonata in D minor [08:52]
Heinrich DÖBEL (1651-1693)
Sonata in D minor [08:28]
Gzyga 3 in A [01:22]
Johann Jacob WALTHER (1650-1717)
Sonata XVII in d minor 'Gara di due Violini in Uno' [09:57]
Johann Caspar KERLL (1627-1693)
Toccata III in E minor [04:50]
Heinrich DÖBEL (1651-1693)
Gzyga 2 in A [01:06]
Heinrich Ignaz Franz VON BIBER (1644-1704)
Preludio and Passacaglia in G minor [10:28]
Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704)
Sonata Violino solo in D [13:32]
Plamena Nikitassova (violin), Matthias Müller (violone), Julian Behr (theorbo), Jörg-Andreas Bötticher (harpsichord, organ)
rec. 2016, Franziskanerkirche, Vienna, Austria
CLAVES 50-1727 [70:02]

You may, if you like, consider this album as representing the ‘successful struggle for recognition with organological as well as social and genre-related aspects’ or – if that seems wholly impenetrable – as representing the rise of virtuoso violin music in German-speaking lands in the seventeenth century. The quotation is taken from the booklet and is not wholly representative though it initially seems to set up a too-formidable barrier in understanding between the expectant listener and the music to which he is listening. In fact, the disc charts the way in which the German School absorbed new developments in Italian virtuosity and does so, moreover, with a number of premiere recordings.

Heinrich Lizkau’s 1657 Sonata alternates fruitfully between cantabile and freewheeling figuration in a way that generates terpsichorean vitality, as well as alluding to moments of pastoral delight. Jörg-Andreas Bötticher’s organ registrations are deftly selected, allowing Plamena Nikitassova’s violin to fly overhead with avian refinement. Philipp Friedrich Böddecker’s Sonata represents the stylus phantasticus and is cast in eight brief movements ending with an Alla Francese. It just predates Lizkau’s sonata but lacks for nothing in internal contrasts, with alternation of tempi and incident and passages where the theorbo accompaniment dominates, all of which suggests the ripe colour of this ingenious work.

All three pieces by Heinrich Döbel are heard in first-ever recordings. The sense of expressive freedom in the Sonata in D minor – abetted by delightful ornaments – is buttressed by the theorbo’s sense of colour and the performers’ excellent sense of rhythm. In the rustic brevity of the Gzyga 3 in A other musically fruitful, less cosmopolitan elements are encountered. Johann Jacob Walter’s Sonata XVII is technically advanced, as befits a leading exponent of the time and deliberately less colourful timbrally but more focused instrumentally. The differentiation of voicings is highly sophisticated. Apparently Biber’s Preludio and Passacaglia in G minor – the so-called Schutzengel-Passacaglia – is heard in its premiere recording here, or at least that’s how it’s marked in the track listing. Given that this is the Passacaglia from the Rosary Sonatas that’s clearly not the case but the Preludio escapes description in the booklet notes and may well be new to disc.

Contrast is provided by Johann Caspar Kerll’s Toccata for solo harpsichord, which is full of harmonic interest. The disc ends with Muffat’s Sonata Violino solo in D, another example of the stylus phantasticus. Opening with expressive intensity the writing is entertaining, demanding, athletic and fluid, with highly effective imitative writing in the penultimate fast movement.

Appropriate instruments of the time have been used; a Jacob Stainer violin and an organ from 1642, in addition to a chromatic harpsichord. Nikitassova utilises a seventeenth-century technique in which the violin is held low against the chest – something folk fiddlers sometimes do today. This is a valuable addition to the catalogue of Austro-German violin music of the seventeenth century with rare pierces in five premiere recordings played with exemplary finesse and commitment.

Jonathan Woolf
Previous review: Johan van Veen



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