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Johann Gottlieb JANITSCH (1708 - c1763)
Trio Sonatas
Sonata da Camera in F [13:58]
Sonata 3 in e minor [16:26]
Trio sonata in D [13:25]
Sonata da Camera in g minor [14:27]
Sonata da Camera in B flat [14:10]
Berlin Friday Academy
Recorded 2019 at the Andreaskirche, Potsdam, Germany DDD
Reviewed as a stereo 16/44 download from Outhere with pdf-booklet

The court chapel of Frederik the Great, King of Prussia, was one of the most important musical institutions of Germany in the mid-18th century. A number of the most prominent musicians of the time were in his service, such as the Benda brothers, the Graun brothers, the keyboard player Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and the flautist Johann Joachim Quantz. This disc includes music by a lesser-known member of Frederick's chapel, Johann Gottlieb Janitsch.

He was born in Schweidnitz in Silesia (now Swidnica in Poland) and was educated as a gambist. After having been a law student in Frankfurt an der Oder where he also played a major role in local musical life, he joined the chapel of Frederick, then still Crown Prince of Prussia, in Ruppin, later Rheinsberg. It is here that he started a series of weekly concerts on Fridays, the Freitagsakademie. It is likely that his chamber music was written for performances during these concerts in which both professional and amateur players participated. When Frederick became King of Prussia and moved his court to Berlin, Janitsch continued his Friday academies there.

He was especially famous for his quartets; his colleague Johann Wilhelm Hertel considered them "the best specimens of the genre". They were models of contrapuntal technique; this form also frequently appears in the oeuvre of Telemann and Fasch. The recordings of Janitsch's music I have heard previously, mostly focused on his contributions to this genre; the present disc is entirely devoted to his trio sonatas. They turn out to be just as fine as his quartets.

His oeuvre is notable for several specific features. First, in his trio sonatas we find a mixture of different styles. On the one hand, as in his quartets, he proves to be a master of counterpoint, one of the hallmarks of the baroque idiom. On the other hand, they bear the traces of the modern galant idiom, which was so popular in the mid-18th century. The central movement of the Sonata 3 in e minor (allegretto) is a good example: it includes passages in which the two melody instruments imitate each other, but also episodes in which they play in parallel motion. The trio sonatas are also typical products of the time, in that they have three movements in the order slow/moderate - fast - fast, which was then common in Berlin.

Second, Janitsch seems to have had a special liking of unconventional combinations of instruments. One of his quartets is scored for oboe, viola and cello, another one for transverse flute, oboe and viola da gamba. The role of the viola in his oeuvre is particularly striking. This instrument was mostly used in orchestral music, but in chamber music it was very seldom treated on equal footing with violin or flute. That is different in Janitsch's oeuvre. Several of his quartets include parts for a viola, and the present disc also has two sonatas with viola. And that's not all. It sometimes seems to take first seat, such as in the Sonata da Camera in F, which opens this disc. In all three movements, the viola starts the proceedings. The flute enters only after several bars in which the viola is on its own. One wonders what may have inspired Janitsch to give the viola such a prominent place in his oeuvre.

It is one of the features which makes his music so interesting and make him stand out from the crowd. Taking this into account, one would wish that his music would be more frequently performed. Therefore this disc is most welcome, and it was an excellent idea of the performers to select Janitsch for their first commercial recording. And a very fine one it is. The playing is outstanding. Listen to the closing movement of the Sonata 3 in e minor, or the allegro assai, the last movement of the Sonata da Camera in g minor. These are good specimens of their lively style of playing. They tackle this repertoire with verve and energy. The solo passages are very well performed, and the ensemble is also immaculate. I won't forget to mention the individual performers: Joseph Monticello (transverse flute), Adam Masters (oboe), Tim Willis (violin), Lea Strecker (viola), Alexander Nicholls (cello) and Daniel Trumbull (harpsichord).

Well done, guys! I am looking forward to your next project.

Johan van Veen

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