Ristori: Cantatas

G A Ristori: Cantatas for Soprano
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
Maria Savastano, soprano, Jon Olaberria, oboe
Audax Records ADX 13711. 68’12

Ensemble Diderot has built an enviable reputation for their instrumental recordings, based on the violin playing of their founder director Johannes Pramsohler. But on this occasion, they appear as a backing group to soprano Maria Savastano, who gets prominent billing. Sensibly, the programme is based on a single, and lesser-known Italian composer, Giovanni Alberto Ristori (1692-1753). He was probably born in Bologna but spent much of his life in Dresden in the court of the Electors of Saxony, surviving the musical cull after Augustus the Strong’s death in 1733, presumably on account of his having been music tutor to the new Elector when he was Crown Prince.  The Elector’s wife, Maria Antonia, wrote the text of the three cantatas on this recording. The daughter of the Bavarian Elector, she was an accomplished singer and poet.

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Mondonville: Trio Sonatas Op 2

Mondonville: Trio Sonatas Op 2 (1734)
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
Audax Records ADX13707. 67’22

Diderot.jpgJean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville (1711-1772) was born in the south-west of France to an aristocratic family whose fortune was in decline. He moved to Paris in 1733 and almost immediately published a volume of violin Sonatas. He initially came under the patronage of Madame de Pompadour and also joined the Concert Spirituel and, later, the Chapelle royale. The first of his 17 grands motets  was performed at around the same time. In 1734, this Opus 2 set of six Trio Sonatas was published. The quality and technical virtuosity of the writing for the two violins says a lot about his own abilities as a violinist. Extensive use of double stops for both players are just the start of it.

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Montanari: Violin Concertos

Montanari: Violin Concertos
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
Audax Records ADX13704. 60’02

‘Dresden’ Concerto in c; Opus 6 Concertos Nos 1, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Montanari: Violin ConcertosAntonio Maria Montanari (1676-1737) was one of the most celebrated violinists in Rome during the period when Handel was there. He played in the orchestras of many of Rome most extravagant families and cardinals, including the Borghese, Ruspoli, Colonna and Pamphilj. He played in the first performance of Handel’s La Resurrezion in 1708. After Corelli’s death in 1713, Montanari took over some of his concertmaster roles. He is little known today, but his Opus 6 collection of violin concertos was one of the most advanced sets of the period. This inspiring CD of six of his concertos (all but one being first recordings – the Concerto in A Major, Op1/8 has been recorded by EUBO, the European Union Baroque Orchestra) will do much to return him to his former fame. Continue reading

Meister: Il giardino del piacere

Meister: Il giardino del piacere
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
St John’s Smith Sq. 8 May 2016

Meister: Il Giardino del piacere: La Musica Nona, Duodecima & Terza; Pachelbel: Partie II (Musicalische Ergötzung) & Partie V; Keller Chaconne; Biber: Partia VI (Harmonia artificioso-ariosa)

For the launch concert of their latest CD (of the music of Johann Friedrich Meister, reviewed here), Ensemble Diderot contrasted three of Meister’s 1695 La Musica  sonatas with music by his near contemporise Pachelbel, Keller and Biber. We know little of Meister. He seems to have come from Hanover or thereabouts, and certainly worked in the Ducal Court there. After a dispute about pay, he moved to the Lübeck area before moving north to Flensburg in Schleswig (then part of Denmark and now the most northerly city in Germany) where he was organist of the Marienkirche and also work for the local Ducal Court.  His collection Il giardino del piacere, overo Raccolta de diversi fiori musicali, come sonate, fughe, imitationi, ciaccone, passagaglie, allemande, correnti &c. was published in Hamburg in 1695, shortly before his death.

His music seems to sum up the varied and exciting music of that period in German musical history, a time still dominated by the stylus phantasticus, or fantasy style of free and often rather anarchic musical structures. The latter is shown in the fact that none of the three pieces played had the same format. Although all open with a Sonata, usually with a central fugal section, the following dances seem to be in almost random order and style, although they all end with a Gigue. The two pieces by Pachelbel were similar in structural style, although they both included a distinctive and lively Treza movement. The Biber Partita VI (that ended the concert) was built around an imaginative central set of 13 variations, with an opening Praeludium and closing Finale. The Pachelbel Musicalische Ergötzung was played with two piccolo violins, with scordatura tuning, making a nice tonal contrast to the sound of normal baroque violins.

Diderot.jpgJohannes Pramsohler and his three fellow musicians of Ensemble Diderot relished the contrast between and within the various pieces, playing with an exquisite combination of consort and individuality. Their intonation was perfect throughout, and they managed to bring exaggeration to the already exciting music without ever pushing things too far. I particularly liked the fact that, despite having a clear group leader, his playing never dominated. These were true Trio Sonatas, where the balance between the three voices is vital – and Roldán Bernabé and Gulrim Choi had important contributions on second violin and cello. Philippe Grisvard’s harpsichord continue was delicate and sensitive, correctly avoiding the temptation to do too much.

Johannes Pramsohler introduced the music in a delightfully informal, but occasionally rather lengthy manner.

CD. Meister: Il giardino del piacere

Meister: Il giardino del piacere
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
Audax ADX13705. 66’45

Johann Friedrich Meister: Il Giardino Del Piacere (La Musica Terza, Settima, Ottava, Nona, Prima & Duodecima).

Ensemble Diderot and Johannes Pramsohler - Meister: Il giardino del piacereAbout ten years after Reinhard Goebel’s Musica Antiqua Köln disbanded, Ensemble Diderot have completed their last CD project by recording the remaining six Trio Sonatas from his Il giardino del piacere, overo Raccolta de diversi fiori musicali, come sonate, fughe, imitationi, ciaccone, passagaglie, allemande, correnti &c. We know little of Johann Friedrich Meister. He seems to have come from Hanover, and certainly worked in the Ducal Court there. After a dispute about pay, he moved to the Lübeck area before moving north to Flensburg in Schleswig (then part of Denmark and now the most northerly city in Germany) where he was organist of the Marienkirche and work for the local Ducal Court.  His collection, Il giardino del piacere (pleasure garden), was published in Hamburg in 1695, shortly before his death.

Meister’s music seems to sum up the varied and exciting music of that period in German musical history, a period dominated by the stylus phantasticus (fantasy style) of free and often rather anarchic musical structures. The latter is shown in the fact that none of the Sonatas on this CD have the same format. Although all open with a Sonata, usually with a central fugal section, the following dances seem to be in almost random order and style, although they all end with a Gigue.

Johannes Pramsohler and his three fellow musicians of Ensemble Diderot clearly relish the contrast between and within the various pieces, and they play with an exquisite combination of consort and individuality. Their intonation is perfect throughout, and they manage bring exaggeration to the already exciting music without ever pushing things too far. I particularly like the fact that, despite having a clear group leader, his playing never dominates. These are true Trio Sonatas, and the balance between the three voices is vital – Roldán Bernabé and Gulrim Choi have important contributions on second violin and cello. Philippe Grisvard’s harpsichord continue is delicate and sensitive, correctly avoiding the temptation to do too much. And Johannes Pramsohler is a very talented violinist that is well worth watching out for.

The recording is of excellent quality. I like the fact that the little up-beat breaths before pieces start are retained. These are an essential part of performance practice but are usually inaudible from the concert stage, or edited out from recordings. The CD was launched at their concert in London’s St John’s, Smith Square on 8 May, reviewed here.