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8.557679 - PARTITURBUCH (DAS) - Instrumental Music at the Courts of 17th Century Germany
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Das Partiturbuch
Instrumental music at the Courts of 17th Century Germany

 

17th-century German composers of every professional level, from Capellmeister to simple musician, wrote instrumental music. Jacob Ludwig (1623-1698), scribe of the so-called Partiturbuch Ludwig, selections of which make up the repertoire heard on this record, is an example of the latter, although he does not appear to have composed himself. Ludwig was a court musician in Wolfenbüttel and then in Gotha. In 1662, having been in Gotha for several years, he presented his Partiturbuch, a collection of contemporary instrumental music written in score, to his former Wolfenbüttel employer, Duke August, as a birthday present.

This codex draws together about a hundred instrumental compositions from all parts of Germany, providing a snap-shot picture of the pieces being performed in the courts of Middle Germany around 1660. While primarily a collection of sonatas, Ludwig's source also contains many works on ground basses, including arias and ciaconnas. Whether newly composed or from the stockpile of basses used for improvisation, composition on a ground bass belongs to the earliest forms of written instrumental music. Variations of the bass ciaccona can be heard not only in the works titled as such (Bertali, Anonymous) but also in the Sonata a 2 by Adam Drese. Nathanael Schnittelbach's Ciaconna for violin runs through 66 variations over the descending tetrachord known as passacaglia before ending with a coda, and this same bass, while in a different mode, is found in the central section of Bertali's Sonata a 4. The Samuel Capricornus piece is a ground on a newly composed bass just as Johann Heinrich Schmelzer's Sonata variata. A free treatment of the bergamasca forms the final section of Johann Michael Nicolai's Sonata a 2 for violin and bassoon. The selections on this recording reflect the make-up of the entire Partiturbuch with composers from the most important regions of German musical culture: the imperial Viennese court in the south, the Hanseatic cities of the north, and the many small ducal courts throughout Middle Germany, Thuringia in particular, where Ludwig himself was at home.

After the Thirty Years' War the Thuringian courts invested more and more money into those things that reflected the glory of the ruler, including new palaces and expensive musical establishments at court. Adam Drese (ca. 1620-1701), Capellmeister in Weimar, entered his position at court directly after the war, during which he had studied in Warsaw with Marco Scacchi. Duke Wilhelm IV of Saxe-Weimar sent him on a number of trips to important European courts enabling him to observe the practices of the most eminent music-making of his time. Today Drese is best-known as a composer of hymn-tunes. He became a Pietist at the end of his life while in Arnstadt, where he even burned all of his operas in response to his beliefs. Johann Michael Nicolai (1629-1685) started his career in Thuringia at the court of Saxe-Lauenburg. In 1655, he went to the Stuttgart court where he remained until his death. He was particularly well-known for his playing of low instruments like the bass violone. Samuel Capricornus (1628-1665) also ended his career in Stuttgart, although not as a virtuoso or simple musician but as Capellmeister. A Protestant, Capricornus directed the church music in Preßburg (Bratislava) from 1651 to 1657 before making his way to Stuttgart. He apparently travelled through Thuringia on his way to his new position, and it is likely that his Ciaconna found its way into Ludwig's collection as a result of this voyage. He studied in Vienna before starting his work in Preßburg, and it was precisely his learning experience with such important Central European figures as Antonio Bertali that laid the groundwork for his defence of his own music during a particularly nasty clash with one of Nicolai's best friends at the Stuttgart court, the organist Phillip Friedrich Böddecker.

The composer represented by the greatest number of works in Ludwig's collection is Antonio Bertali (1605-1669), the Capellmeister of the imperial court in Vienna. Bertali wrote operas, church music, and instrumental music for the Emperors Ferdinand II, Ferdinand III, and Leopold I, and his music formed the basis for compositional taste and style in German-speaking regions during his life-time. Born in Verona, Bertali came to the imperial court in Vienna during the reign of Ferdinand II in the early 1620s as a violinist, bringing with him the virtuosic instrumental writing of Italy. In 1649 under Ferdinand III he became the imperial Capellmeister, the first new director of music after the end of the Thirty Year's War. During this time of peace the musical arts flourished, and Bertali's music found wide distribution throughout Germany and beyond. Today his music is still preserved in historical collections as far away from his personal milieu as Sweden, England, and France. Ludwig's collection, containing eighteen works attributed to the composer is a very important contemporary source of his instrumental music that includes many otherwise unknown pieces. The Ciaconna for solo violin shows both the compositional and technical virtuosity of this highly influential musician. Another instrumentalist who became Capellmeister of the imperial court in Vienna, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (ca. 1623-1680) is famous for having been the first German to have this honour bestowed upon him after years of the post going to Italian musicians. He unfortunately enjoyed this office for less than one year before dying of the plague in Prague in 1680. Although famous for his violin music, Schmelzer started his musical career as a cornettist in St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna before becoming an imperial musician.

At the other end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, in Lübeck, the wealthy Hanseatic city on the Baltic Sea, another school of violin-playing was developing. Nathanael Schnittelbach (1633-1667) came to Lübeck from Gdansk in 1655 as a municipal musician. After furthering his art in violin-playing with the Lübeck violinist Nicolaus Bleyer, he married his teacher's daughter and became himself one of the most important representatives of the Lübeck violin school. Schnittelbach's Ciaconna in the Partiturbuch Ludwig is the only surviving work for solo violin from this master.

Michael Fuerst


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