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Johann FISCHER (1646-1716/17)
Der habile Violiste
Balettae a 4 (Kromeriz collection, undated) [6:27]
Mein G’müth ist mir verwirret [0:44]
Hertzlich thut mich verlangen (Düben collection, undated) [6:51]
Suite à violino piculo solo, componiret in memoriam der chur-ländische Freüden (undated, attributed to Johann Fischer) [6:50]
Musikalisch Divertissement (1701) Suite I [10:56]
Das Eins-Dreij und Dreij Eins oder Der habile Violiste (Düben collection, undated) [16:20]
From: Musicalische Fürsten - Lust (1706) Unterschied zwischen einen rechten Violinist und gemeinen Bauern-Fiedler [11:59]
Polnische Dänße [4:02]
Hoff- und baurengeyger schicken sich an, eyn ballet zu spielen und tantzen [1:02]
Antoinette Lohmann (violin)
Furor Musicus
Furor Agraricus
Rec. February 2020, Koepelkerk Renswoude, the Netherlands.

Antoinette Lohmann and her ensemble Furor Musicus have a reputation for recording obscure and unfamiliar music, and this one very much becomes part of this growing catalogue. Johann Fischer, not to be confused with a few other Johann Fischers including composer Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer, is one of a legion of figures from this period about whose early life little is known. He worked in Paris as a copyist for Lully, and subsequently at the court orchestra in Stuttgart and as a church musician in Augsburg. The detailed booklet notes for this release tell us of various posts and much travel throughout Europe, as well as his reported eccentricities and cheerful character, though not the doubtful non-referenced “lively fishing habit” mentioned in Wikipedia.

Antoinette Lohman’s attraction towards Fischer is at least in part grounded in the 17th century distinction between educated violinists and self-taught fiddlers. Fischer worked in both styles, and she formed an alternative ensemble, Furor Agraricus, in order to give heightened rustic character to these pieces.

This mixture of courtly refinement and rustic entertainment is an enticing prospect, and with a nice recording and expert musicianship this is largely rewarded, though even the most extreme examples of rustic fiddling retain a politeness barrier that might have been broken to greater effect. The dances of the Balettae a 4 are very much of a courtly nature, conjuring images of formal patterns being formed in extravagant and expensive gowns and suits. After a brief setting of a love song, Mein G’müth ist mir verwirret we have a sacred lamento, Hertzlich thut mich verlangen, with plenty of expressive harmonies and a rich instrumental texture. The Suite à violino piculo solo, apparently composed “in memory of his friends in Courland, to whom the writer had to bid farewell” is, as with some of the other pieces, doubtful as to which Johann Fischer its signed initials refer. The high-tuned violino piccolo has a nice, compact tone, and the music mixes Latvian melodies with the more serious sections illustrative of the composer’s regrets.

A highlight of this programme is the subtitle Der habile Violiste (the skilled violinist) of Das Eins-Dreij und Dreij Eins, a deliberately mischievous piece that forces the soloist to change between three different instruments (violino piccolo, violin and viola), all in in different tunings (scordatura) so quickly that disaster is almost guaranteed without added interludes from the accompanying instruments to give time for the plate to switch.

The last three tracks represent Fischer’s fiddler output, with some glorious effects from instruments called the Bauernleier, Bumbass and Holzschugfiedel or Clogfiddle. Instruments would have been made from whatever wood and materials were to hand in the countryside, and any kind of hollow box might be adapted for music making. They almost certainly never sounded as good as they do here, but jingling bells, buzzing and gently nasal squawks are guaranteed to raise a smile in the fascinating Unterschied zwischen einen rechten Violinist und gemeinen Bauern-Fiedler, and the all too brief final Hoff- und baurengeyger schicken sich an, eyn ballet zu spielen und tantzen.

I am very much in favour of this kind of archeological recording, taking us beyond the usual mainstream of Baroque artistry and educating us towards awareness of a kind of witty musical ‘political incorrectness’ that pokes fun at differences in musical styles and the unreal demands sometimes placed on individual musicians by incompetent composers. A touch more ebullience in general might have made greater impact, but this is mere carping on what is a very fine and genuinely interesting recording.

Dominy Clements

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