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Johann Gottlieb JANITSCH (1708-c. 1762/63)
Sonata da chiesa in A Minor, Op. 7 No. 2 [10:15]
Sonata da camera in D Minor, Op. 3 No. 14 [11:16]
Sonata da camera in E-Flat Major, Op. 6 No. 35 [14:37]
Sonata da camera in G Minor, Op. 4 No. 21[18:12]
Ouverture grosso in G Major [13:06]
Tempesta di Mare/Gwyn Roberts, Richard Stone
rec. 2017, Gould Recital Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia

The name Johann Gottlieb Janitsch was new to me, never mind his music, this despite his flourishing during a period that interests me. A musician and composer in the Berlin court of Frederick the Great, he has been overshadowed by such as C. P. E. Bach and Johann Quantz; his cause was further hampered by the loss during his lifetime of his manuscripts, despite their popularity. The notes tell us how this is now beginning to be put right with the recovery of a collection of music by him thought to be lost. The Archive of the Berlin Sing-Akademie, contained many works by Janitsch originally in the possession of Mendelssohn’s relative Sara Levy; it was moved to Silesia during the Second World War, rediscovered in Kiev only in 1999, and finally returned to Germany two years later. Many of the recordings of his music are the result of this find.

This disc presents three examples of the Sonata da Camera, an art form in which the composer excelled, and also a Sonata da Chiesa (Church Sonata). These are well crafted works whose vocal quality is brought out through the writing for the flute part. The longest of these is the G minor opus 4 number 21, which came to be known as the ‘Passionquartett’ due to its inclusion of the chorale ‘O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden’, also used to great effect by J. S. Bach. The Sonata is also associated with Janitsch’s daughter, who had died at an early age; Janitsch pours out his grief in this wonderful music, explaining why this piece has become one of the composer’s best-known works.

The final work on the disc moves away from the sonata form for which Janitsch is best known, being for double orchestra. The Ouverture Grosso in G, just one of many such works that he composed for the musicians Berlin court, combines the tradition of the concerto grosso with the newer, more progressive, French and Italian concert overture. The result is a real tour de force of orchestral writing, with the woodwinds expertly pitted against the complex string writing.

I enjoyed the Tempesta di Mare’s recordings of the music of the French baroque (CHAN 0805, CHAN 0810) and this recording is no different; their playing is excellent throughout but the flautists Gwyn Roberts and Eve Friedman deserve special mention. The sympathetic recorded sound helps create a nuanced performance. The booklet notes are also first-rate; not only do they discuss the rediscovery of the manuscripts, but they also put the composer in context, as well as discussing each of the pieces presented here. A recording such as this can only enhance a composer’s reputation and it is to be hoped that Tempesta di Mare will make further recordings of Janitsch’s music.

Stuart Sillitoe