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Philipp Heinrich ERLEBACH (1657-1714)
Complete Trio Sonatas
Sonata quarta [11:02]
Sonata sesta [10:23]
Sonata quinta [10:02]
Sonata prima [12:25]
Sonata seconda [11:15]
Sonata III [13:53]
L’Achéron/François Joubert-Caillet
rec. 2018, église Notre-Dame de Centeilles
RICERCAR RIC393 [69:02]

Philipp Heinrich Erlebach is one of those 17th century names who has been overshadowed by greats such as Johann Sebastian Bach, but his cause wasn’t helped by the loss of the bulk of his output in a fire at Rudolstadt castle in 1735. That we have any of his music today is thanks to published editions and a few scarce manuscript copies. With the quality of these works clearly in evidence through these performances we can only speculate as to what was lost and regret its demise, and I would gently steer collectors in the direction of a vocal programme from the Capricornus Consort Basel released by the Christophorus label (review).

Jéróme Lejeune’s booklet notes provide plenty of context for these sonatas, pointing out their being part of a new German stylistic trend which managed to include both French dance suite movements and Italian forms, embracing the latter to the extent that the composer changed his name to Filippo Henrico for the first published edition. These are very agreeable works, intended for the ‘hoch und viel geneigter Music-Liebhaber’ or the ‘high and well-intentioned lover of music’, and with a dedication to the count of Schönborn-Wiesentheid this was music clearly intended for courtly entertainment. There are no shockingly flamboyant solo parts nor are the emotions taken much beyond gently pastoral musings. The violin and viol engage in amicable conversation while organ or harpsichord keyboards fill out the harmonies, the archlute adding intimate atmosphere or fuller resonance depending on the mood evoked. The skilled musicians of L’Achéron make this a collection of sonatas that is easy to love, and Marie Rouquié’s violin top line is nicely balanced with the ensemble while providing a positive and sweetly expressive lead.

There are a one or two alternative recordings of these works around, and I did a brief comparison with El Arte Mvsico on the Verso label (review). This is a decent enough recording, but L’Achéron has a closer and more detailed balance, making for more punchy articulation and rhythmic effect in the faster dance numbers, and greater expressive refinement in the slow music. As a set of Erlebach’s complete VI Sonate a viola e viola da gamba col suo basso continuo this is going to be a hard one to beat.

Dominy Clements

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