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8.557472-73 - FROBERGER: Toccatas and Partitas / Meditation / Lamentation on the Death of Ferdinand III

Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667)
Harpsichord Works


Froberger belongs to a generation of musicians from the Germanic area (the most prominent being Heinrich Schütz) who were trained in Italy through the generosity of enlightened princes deeply imbued with Latin and Italian culture. Unlike other illustrious musicians with whom he shared ties of friendship (Weckmann, Schütz), however, he also drew inspiration from the French style, his contribution to which marks him as one of the founders of that particular harpsichord style .

Through his musical training and his close ties with Frescobaldi, Froberger became a vital link between the Italian master and the music north of the Alps. In particular he helped to introduce Germany to Frescobaldi’s contrapuntal style (that of the Fantasie, Ricercari, Capricci and Canzoni), genres that were to coexist with a parallel Italian style, that of the Venetian toccata and intonazione. In fact Froberger’s first compositional phase owes a great deal to the imitation of the Frescobaldian genres, confirmed by his similar use of tablature for the toccatas in contrast with that of score for the contrapuntal forms .

For the present recording I have drawn on the main Viennese sources of Froberger’s work, though I have excluded the contrapuntal works in order to give greater prominence to the toccata and the dance forms .

The most significant corpus of Froberger’s keyboard works is that of the three autograph manuscripts preserved in Vienna at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek: that of 1649 (Book Two), call-number Mus. Hs. 18706; that of 1656 (Book Four), Mus. Hs. 18707; and that of c.1658 (Book Three) Mus. Hs. 16560. All three are written in the hand of the composer, whose signature appears at the end of each composition using the formula “m pria f”, explained by Siegbert Rampe as a legal abbreviation of “manu propria fecit” (though the “f” clearly also stands for Froberger himself). The first two manuscripts are also embellished with decorations that – at least in the 1656 book – carry the signature of the calligrapher, Johannes Fridericus Sautter Studtgardianus, who, like Froberger, was from Stuttgart. In conformity with Frescobaldi’s criteria, the toccatas and suites are written in tablature, the fantasias, ricercars and capriccios in score. Their lavish appearance is clearly inspired by the copper engravings of Frescobaldi, whose toccatas were “of the greatest taste to virtuosi for their not being in score”, as Bartolomeo Grassi writes in the notice “to the students of the work” in his edition of the Canzoni of 1628 .

The full title of the 1649 book is Libro Secondo di Toccate, Fantasie, Canzone, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue, et altre Partite alla Sac(r)a Caes(are)a M(aes)ta [Ferdinand III] divotissim(amen)te dedicato in Vienna li 29 Settembre A(nn)o 1649 da Gio: Giacomo Froberger. It consists of four Parts. Part One includes six toccatas in tablature, of which Nos. V and VI are to be played at the Elevation. Part Two includes six fantasias, of which No. I is on the hexachord and No. IV on sol la re, though it also includes the theme la sol fa re mi with the original accompanying motto “lascia fare mi” (leave it to me) used by Josquin to mock Cardinal Ascanio Sforza’s standard response to the musician’s requests for payment. Part Three has six canzonas. Part Four six suites, of which Nos. I, III, IV and V are made up of an Allemande, Courante and Sarabande, No. II of an Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue (thereby attesting, as also suggested in the general title, that the Allemande, Gigue, Courante and Sarabande sequence is not so dogmatically typical of the composer), and No. VI of a series of six partitas with Courante (and Double) and Sarabande on the Mayerin theme .

The complete title of the 1656 book is Libro Quarto di Toccate, Ricercari, Capricci, Allemande, Gigue, Courante, Sarabande composte e humilissim(amen)te dedicate alla Sacra Cesarea Maestà di Ferdinando Terzo. This is followed by the dedication, dated Vienna l’anno 1656, where one reads that the works were “seconded for the most part by the humour provoked in me by the various accidents of time, so that I created and added the Fourth Part to those that I formerly dedicated to Your Majesty”, presumably a reference by Froberger to his Lament on the death of the Emperor’s son .

This volume is divided into four parts. Part One has six toccatas; Part Two, six ricercars; Part Three, six capriccios; and Part Four, six suites (in the sequence Allemande, Gigue, Courante and Sarabande). Of the suites No. V appears to be particularly dedicated to the Emperor since the titles of the dances are decorated with the symbols of imperial power, the Allemande with an eagle, the Gigue with a globe surmounted by a cross, the Courante with a sword, and the Sarabande with a sceptre. The Allemande of Suite VI is a Lament on the death of Ferdinand IV, the son and heir to the crown, followed by a Gigue, Courante and Sarabande .

In comparison, the Book of c.1658 has a much more modest appearance. Its full title is Libro di Capricci, e ricercate, composto e humilis(simamen)te dedicato Alla sacra Cesarea Maestà di Leopoldo primo Libro Terzo [sic!] da Gio Giacomo Froberger. In the brief dedication Froberger speaks of Leopold’s “innate clemency”, perhaps alluding to Froberger’s presumed disgrace, as narrated by Walther and Mattheson, a situation possibly resulting from Leopold’s jealousy of his elder brother, Ferdinand IV, whose death had unexpectedly left him the imperial throne. Froberger had perhaps given too overt support to the legitimate heir who would have relegated Leopold to a religious life. Whatever the case, Froberger left the court of Leopold, like his predecessors an excellent musician. This book contains only music in score, namely six capriccios and six ricercars, both of which were certainly ‘antique’ and perhaps even ‘outmoded’ musical forms at Leopold’s court .

Even a superficial examination of these works shows that Froberger’s style exemplifies various keyboard practices explained in Frescobaldi’s famous preface to his Toccatas (with its various Avvertimenti). Regarding the tablature editions of Frescobaldi’s Toccatas, Bartolomeo Grassi, one of his pupils, regarded them as acceptable to performers precisely because they were not in score. He found difficulty in the commonly faulty alignment of parts in such scores, a defect that he had avoided in his own edition of Frescobaldi’s Canzoni .

The importance of Frescobaldi’s teaching is revealed by the devotion of his pupils, who faithfully reproduce stylistic features, an indication of the toccata style of the master himself. It is above all in the work of his two great disciples, Froberger and Michelangelo Rossi, that we can find genuinely valuable suggestions on performing issues. Frescobaldi’s toccata owes much to his knowledge and imitation of the “modern madrigals” published by his teacher Luzzaschi in 1601. These, printed by the copper engraving method that Frescobaldi also adopted for his own toccatas, reproduce the vocal scoring of the three sopranos of Ferrara in tablature, in such a way that the music could be used for personal performance on the keyboard when no singers were available. It is the sensitive playing of such “summarising” tablatures, a practice that Frescobaldi unquestionably cultivated, that lies at the origin of his toccata style and distinguishes it from the very different “coloratura” style of the Venetian intonazioni of the two Gabrielis, and of Merulo, even though the last was certainly among the first to adopt for his own toccatas the method of copper engraving invented by Simone Verovio in Rome .

A further development of the toccata is found in the suites, where the various laments again show Froberger building on the Frescobaldi heritage. Through him the Frescobaldi toccata becomes in France a model of free keyboard music, and its immediate product, which also owes much to the lute style, is the prélude non mesuré. An eloquent case in point is Louis Couperin’s Prélude à l’imitation de M. Froberger inspired by the Toccata FbWV 101. The suite proper, a typically French balletic genre, has a parallel in the dance movements to which Frescobaldi in his Balletti, Correnti, Gagliarde, Ciaccone and Passacaglie had dedicated his lightest style. Subsequently, the French reduced the ornamentation (completely written out in Italy by Merulo and, in part, by Frescobaldi) into stylized symbols displayed in ordered Tables. With the exception of Roberday, who published Froberger’s Ricercare I of 1656 in his own Fugues et Caprices in 1660 (an isolated case in France), Frescobaldi’s contrapuntal style was spread by Froberger above all to Germany where, as suggested above, the stilus phantasticus (that of the praeambula and toccatas) instead derived principally from the Venetian school, championed by Weckmann under the guidance of Gabrieli’s former pupil, Schütz .

The Méditation is one of Froberger’s best-known works. Seventeenth-century German society was obsessed by the idea of death, ever-present in the deprivations of the Thirty Years War. Hermann Schein, who himself died at the age of 44, in a short time lost all the members of his family, while Schütz saw both his wife and sister-in-law die in the space of just two months. Faith, however, brought endurance and in Froberger’s Méditation the major key is a sure sign of hope in the after-life, as in his consolatory Lament on the death of Ferdinand IV. A strong link between the two pieces is imparted by the similarity of their respective openings. The major key of the sixth Gregorian mode in F, that of the De profundis, is also that of the Tombeau written for Blancheroche by Louis Couperin. In contrast, desperation prevails in the Lament on the death of Ferdinand III, an event that struck Froberger with inconsolable grief, for though the piece again begins in the sixth mode, in this case it immediately shifts to the minor .

The only correct source for the opening Méditation is the Hintze manuscript (Library of the Yale Music School, Ms. Ma. 21. H 59, New Haven, Connecticut), the work of Matthias Weckmann in Hamburg around 1653. Trained by Schütz, Weckmann competed musically with Froberger in Dresden, after which a strong friendship developed between the two musicians. According to Mattheson Weckmann received a partita for harpsichord from Froberger. The Méditation, in a very corrupt form, appears as an Allemande in Suite 10 of the collection of 10 Suites de Clavessin published by Roger in Amsterdam around 1709. The same order is found in the Minoritenkonvent archive in Vienna, Codex XIV-731, where the Gigue is crossed out and incomplete. Comparison with the Lament for Ferdinand IV reveals that the dotted note is to be played as a fermata, in accordance with the style of Frescobaldi. The supernumerary quadruplet at the end of bar 1 of the Méditation should be performed as a Caccinian repeated-note trill, an embellishment frequently encountered in the works of Frescobaldi’s disciple Gregorio Strozzi .

Toccata I (FbWV 101) from Book II (1649) is clearly divided into sections, following the model offered particularly in the toccatas of Frescobaldi’s Second Book. It begins “adagio ed arpeggiando” in conformity with Frescobaldi’s Avvertimento No. 3 (from the Preface to the Reader, from the second edition of the First Book of 1615/16). The second episode is a fugato that then moves into triple time in a way similar to the “giga” that concludes Toccata I of Frescobaldi’s Second Book. The close is a free cadenza in binary time, again indicated in the Frescobaldi fashion as 8/12 following a previous 12/8 (see Toccata IX of the Second Book). This toccata is quoted by Louis Couperin in his Prelude à l’imitation de M. Froberger en a mi la included in both the Parville (under this title) and Bauyn manuscripts .

Toccata II (FbWV 102) again begins with the distinctive “adagio ed arpeggiando” pattern. We find both the typical Frescobaldi trill (two semiquavers followed by four demisemiquavers) and many passages with leaps requiring the application of fermatas, as indicated by Frescobaldi in Avvertimento No. 4. The theme of the second section is that of the similar section from Toccata X of Frescobaldi’s Second Book. The close is a chromatic giga. On fol. 7 recto of the Bauyn manuscript the Toccata carries the subtitle: “fatto a Bruxellis [sic] anno 1650” (the primary Vienna autograph source, used for the present recording, is dated 1649) .

Toccata III (FbWV 103) begins with arpeggiation and “adasio”. There are numerous passaggi and trills with fermatas, as indicated above. The model is Toccata II of the Second Book, from which it derives the pattern of the second theme, the central “adagio” and, more particularly, the penultimate section, which is clearly inspired by the similar section in Frescobaldi’s toccata, from which it also borrows the ribattuta di gola codified by Caccini in his preface to the Nuove Musiche. The same ribattuta also opens Toccata I of the Second Book. The close is reminiscent of the “ostinati” so frequent in the Second Book: in particular, the passage preceding the final section of Toccata IX (“Non senza fatiga si giunge al fine”) .

The Mayerin theme is a secular Lied of eight strophes by Georg Greflinger published in 1651. The Clavierbuch of Andreas Bach contains a series of eighteen partitas by J.A. Reinken “sopra l’Aria: Schweiget mir von Weiber nehmen, altrimente chiamata La Meyerin”. Froberger includes eight partitas (the same number as that of the strophes, as Rampe notes): the sixth carries the title “Crommatica”, whereas the last two are a Courante (plus Double) and Sarabande. Spitta indicates an alternative text by J.S. Scholze, who (under the pseudonym Sperontes) published a three-strophe Lied, Nimmer kann ich mich bequehnem, on the same tune used by Froberger in the 1745 appendix to his collection Singende Muse. In his History of Music Ambros identifies Mayerin as Ursula Meyer, known as Meyerin, a lady in the service of the Archduchess Anne of Austria, daughter of Charles I of Styria and then wife of Sigismund III of Poland. Spitta adds, however, that Meyerin was perhaps a generic rather than a proper name, a possible parallel with Frescobaldi’s Monica .

The only source for the Lament on Monsieur Blancheroche is that of the Minoritenkonvent in Vienna (call number 743). In the margin, preceded by the letters N.B., we find the following explanation of the piece in Latin:

Monsieur Blancheroche, the illustrious Parisian lutenist and great friend of Mr. Froberger, after dining at the house of Mme de St Thomas, took a walk with the same Mr. Froberger in the gardens of the Palais Royal (in horto regio). On returning home, he climbed a ladder to carry out some task, but fell off it so badly that he had to be carried to his bed by his wife helped by his son and the others present. Mr. Froberger, seeing the danger of the situation, ran to call for a doctor: there arrived also the surgeons, who bled him to discharge the stagnant blood from the wounded foot; and there arrived also M. le Marquis de Termes to whom Mr. Blancheroche entrusted his children shortly before losing consciousness and dying.

Further clarification of the story may be sought from the testimony of the notorious scandalmonger Tallemant de Réaux in his Historiettes written after 1657. Blancheroche (or Blancrocher) had certainly gone to Mme de St Thomas’s house for a professional visit. Yet the visit was perhaps ‘professional’ in a reciprocal sense for Tallemant tells us that the lady was in fact a courtesan who also played the lute and sang. This perhaps explains why the account attached to the Tombeau omits to say that Froberger also had eaten at the house of Mlle Sandrier/St-Thomas but had only “taken a walk” with Blancheroche. Perhaps it was a merry reunion like those attended by Scarron and the lutenist Louis de Mollier (and perhaps even Blancheroche himself), at which Saint-Thomas would sing. The account of Mlle Sandrier’s ‘Italian’ manner of singing is echoed by an account of the characteristically ‘Italian’ paroxysms with which Luigi Rossi’s Lament of the Queen of Sweden was performed in the presence of Cardinal Richelieu. In addition, it is also worth considering that the final descending scale may be not so much a metaphor of burial as a manner of directly consigning the unfortunate lutenist to hell on the part of the ‘converted bigot’ Froberger. The tragic death of the lutenist was also celebrated by Louis Couperin and François Dufault .

The primary source for the Plainte faite à Londres is Minoriten 743, but Schott says that the Gigue is also found in the Stoos manuscript, Strasbourg c.1684 preserved in Paris (Bibliothèque Nationale, Ms. Vm7 1818). Two slightly divergent versions are also included in the Bulyowsky manuscript dated 15th March 1675, Strasbourg, consulted at the Sächsische Landesbibliothek (Ms. 1-T-595) of Dresden. These two versions are played after that of the Minoritenkonvent. The sequence of dances in Minoriten 743 is clearly Plainte, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue: I believe that the order Allemande, Gigue, Courante, Sarabande, prevalent in the autograph manuscript of 1656, has been overused and applied as a model for all the suites. The Minoriten reading presents various passages of difficult rhythmic interpretation. This work is also accompanied by a Latin explanatory text outlining the circumstances that determined its composition:

Mr. Froberger wishing to go from Paris to London, was robbed in such a complete manner between Paris, Calais and Dover during the sea crossing that he landed in England at a fisherman’s inn without any money and arrived in London. Wishing there to enter [for interesset read interesse] society and listen to music, he was advised to become an organ blower, which he did. But on one occasion, when absorbed by melancholy, he forgot to raise the bellows and was kicked out of the door by the organist. On this sad occurrence he composed this Lament.

The reason for assuming the humble duties of organ-blower may have been his desire to enter some private circle where music was still cultivated in Cromwell’s puritan England. Froberger’s journey to London can be dated around 1652 on the strength of a letter to the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher. The dating of the Prélude de M. Couperin à l’imitation de M. Froberger to the years immediately following is based on a presumed similarity with Froberger’s Plainte, but, as already noted, the probable source of Couperin’s imitation was the Toccata FbWV 101 of 1649, as observed by Moroney and Rampe .

After his first stay in 1637, when he studied with Frescobaldi, Froberger made a second visit to Rome at the end of 1645. On that occasion he forged a friendship with the learned Jesuit Kircher, who then published Froberger’s Fantasia Ut re mi fa sol la in his Ars magna consoni et dissoni in 1650. On his return in 1649 Froberger presented the Emperor Ferdinand III with a machine for composing in counterpoint invented by Kircher .

Toccata [VII] (FbWV 107) from Book IV of 1656 is obviously inspired by the typical model of the toccatas of Frescobaldi’s Second Book, which are more clearly divided into sections than those of the First Book. Here again are many dotted notes to be read as fermatas before a fast passage. We also find a passaggio in one hand while the other performs a trill that “is not to be articulated note by note” (according to Frescobaldi’s Avvertimento No. 6). The Toccata closes with a virtuoso “double passaggio” closely modelled on Toccata IX of the Second Book. A further Frescobaldi reference is the leap at the close of this passage: to be considered in the light of Avvertimento No. 4. The close is practically identical to that of Toccata [III] of 1649 .

Toccata [VIII] (FbWV 108) opens as a Toccata for the Elevation with frequent fermata dots, leaps of effect/affect and recitatives in both hands. A fugal section is thus followed by a broad chordal section and here again the pattern is again derived from Toccata IX of the Second Book. The closing section is a fugato that runs into a conclusive cadence very common in Froberger. The use of D sharp in the Toccata has prompted me to prefer a strict meantone with four sharps and one flat .

Toccata [XII] (FbWV 112) is a masterpiece of Froberger’s idea of the toccata genre and also a genuine catalogue of Frescobaldian features, fully absorbed by the later composer’s genius. The climax occurs at the grand final cadenza introduced by an evident fermata (dotted note). A notable detail is the use of both E sharp and D sharp .

Cavalli’s Orione, performed in Milan in June 1653, was dedicated to Ferdinand IV on the occasion of his election as King of the Romans, the first step towards the imperial crown. The event took place during the lifetime of his father Ferdinand III, according to a practice established by the Habsburgs. This election, however, was not to see its natural fulfilment, for Ferdinand IV died young in 1654. Froberger’s suite, Lamento sopra la dolorosa perdita della Real Maestà di Ferdinando IV Rè de Romani, is a work that aims principally to console the father, Froberger’s patron, an intention indicated by the use of a major key and the suite form. This consolatory function of the suite is particularly striking if compared with the profound grief that Froberger poured out in his later Lament for Ferdinand III himself .

The symbols of the titles can be interpreted as visual puzzles referring to the fugacity of earthly life and faith in the life to come. In the Allemande-Lament we have an hour-glass with two weeping angels. The Lament ends with an ascending scale, performed only at the very end of the piece, finishing in the glory of the Empyrean represented by clouds in which three angels receive the soul of the King of the Romans. The symbolism in the Gigue is a bier covered with flowers and palms sustained by the word Gigue, shaped like a hearse. The Courante shows the prayers for the soul of the deceased represented by the liturgical rite (a thurible scattering smoke/prayer), a cross and a branch of leaves (rebirth in the afterlife). The Sarabande contains a weeping eye, a rich harvest and a wreath, thereby indicating that suffering is rewarded by the understanding that the just, who are full of merit (the harvest), will receive the crown of eternal life .

Historical judgement on Ferdinand III has inevitably been conditioned by the results of the Thirty Years War, damaging to the Empire after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. One must admire the courage of Froberger, who in such perilous times travelled both to France (the Emperor’s sworn enemy) and England (the land of obscurantist Puritans). For Froberger Ferdinand III was the generous benefactor who made it possible for him to meet Frescobaldi, Carissimi, Kircher and Italian music in general. He was a protector of musicians and a musician himself, and his death received further tribute from another musician who had benefited from his patronage, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (1620/23-1679), who composed a Lamento sopra la morte Ferdinandi III. The sole surviving source of Froberger’s Lament is that of the archive of the Minoritenkonvent in Vienna (Minoriten 743) in a very uncertain form as regards accidentals. Too often, however, the problems seem to have been resolved by looking at similar passages in other works by Froberger .

The profound grief immediately expressed in the sixth mode turns to desperation when a rapid darkening effect is occasioned by the shift to the minor. The form is not that of the two-part Lament but that of the more lachrymose three-part pavane of Dowland. The accents are a magnificent example of how Froberger blends Frescobaldi’s influence with the French lute style: splendid declamatory accents are there in abundance, but particularly in the celebration of the benefits obtained by the Holy Imperial Majesty interrupted by a pathetic sanglot. Froberger’s title speaks of a mort très douloureuse and again from the title we can extract the final cry: Ferdinand le troisième .

Sergio Vartolo
Translation: Hugh Ward-Perkins

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