Kress: Violin Concertos from the Darmstadt court

Kress: Violin Concertos from the Darmstadt court
Johannes Pramsohler, Darmstadt Baroque Soloists
Audax ADX13716. 68’07

Georg Philipp Telemann: Concerto For Violin And Trumpet
Johann Jakob Kress: Violin Concerto In C Minor
Johann Friedrich Fasch: Violin Concerto In D Major
Johann Jakob Kress: Violin Concerto In C Major

Johann Samuel Endler: Orchestra Suite With Obligato Violin

Johannes Pramsohler continues his imaginative exploration of the lesser-known byways of the Baroque violin repertoire with this evocation of musical life in early 18th-century Darmstadt. The new young Landgrave, Ernst Ludwig, focussed his attention on the musical life of his Court, continuing the work of his mother who, as Regent during his minority, had encouraged the Court orchestra to adopt the fashionable French style. Ernst Ludwig engaged Graupner to develop the Italian style, leading to a distinctive ‘mixed German’ style, championed in this recording by the composer and Court concertmaster Johann Jakob Kress. Continue reading

French Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin

French Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin
Philippe Grisvard & Johannes Pramsohler
Audax ADX13710. 2CDs. 64’20+51’45

Balbastre: Sonata I in G major
Clément: Sonata No. 1 in C minor
Corrette: Sonata Op. 25, No. 4 in E minor
Duphly: Suite in F major; Suite in G major; Troisième livre de pièces de clavecin
Guillemain: Violin Sonatas, Op 8/4, 5 & 6
Luc Marchand: Suite, Op 1/1
Mondonville: Sonate en symphonie, Op. 3 No. 6; Violin Sonata in G minor, Op 3/1

Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville was the subject of two earlier Audax CDs, reviewed here and here. He is generally credited with moving the French harpsichord from a mere continuo supporting instrument to a role that became equal, or even supplanted, that of the violin with his 1740 publication: Pièces de clavecin en sonates avec accompagnement de violon. This started a plethora of similar pieces over the next 20 years from many different composers. It is a repertoire well worth hearing, and this recording is an important contribution to musical understanding of this middle period in French musical history, half way between the musical heights of the High Baroque in the years around 1700, to the more populist style of the latter part of the decade. Continue reading

Bach & Weiss

Bach & Weiss
Music For Baroque Violin & Lute
Johannes Pramsohler & Jadran Duncumb
Audax Records ADX13706. 77’32
 


JS Bach/Weiss: Suite in A Major (BWV 1025) arr. for violin and obligato lute
Weiss: Suite in A Minor for baroque lute
JS Bach: Partita in D Minor for solo violin (BWV 1004)

The inspiration for this CD is the opening work, an arrangement for violin and obligato lute of the Bach/Weiss A Major Suite (BWV 1025). The whole of the programme note is given over to explaining the complicated background and source history of this piece, leaving the other two works in the programme to “speak for themselves”. The distinguished lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss knew the Bach family well. He was a friend of WF Bach in Dresden and sponsor of CPE Bach’s application for a post in the Prussian court. In 1739 Weiss visited JS Bach in Leipzig, together with WF Bach, staying for around four weeks. During that time they indulged in friendly improvisation contests, including playing fantasias and fugues, Bach on harpsichord, Weiss on lute. Bach’s private secretary wrote: “Something extra special is happening here.”

For this recording, Johannes Pramsohler and Jadran Duncumb have reconstructed one possible outcome of the visit, the Suite in A Major, BWV 1025, seemingly an arrangement by JS Bach for harpsichord and violin of an original lute piece by Weiss. It is not entirely clear from the sources how Bach made his arrangement, but it seems likely that he added a violin part to a keyboard transcription of Weiss’s lute piece, presumably with some help from Weiss because, as far as we know, JS Bach was not proficient at reading lute tablature.  Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Vivaldi: Four Seasons & String Concerti – European Union Baroque Orchestra

Vivaldi The Four Seasons & String Concerti  European Union Baroque Orchestra, Huw Daniel, Bojan Čičič, Johannes Pramsohler, Zefire Valova violins. Lars Ulrich Mortensen. 52’50.
Obsidian CCL CD713

Not another Four Seasons, you might think.  But this is different, in several ways.  Firstly it is from the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO) who regular readers will know I am a fan of.  Secondly the four violinists are all ex-members, and later concertmasters, of EUBO. And thirdly because this not only also includes the charmingly inoffensive little Concerto RV124, but also Vivaldi’s sonnets, read in Italian by another EUBO alumnus, Antonio de Sarlo (the CD booklet includes the texts).  And finally, although not obvious from the CD, this whole project was accompanied by a commissioned puppet show for children using Vivaldi’s music – hopefully this will be released on DVD in the future, but a video can be found on the EUBO website.

The Concerto RV124 introduces the first of the spoken Sonnets.  The four soloists then take their turns at portraying the various seasons with Huw Daniel as Spring, Bojan Čičič, Summer, Johannes Pramsohler, Autumn, and Zefire Valova as Winter.  All four excel throughout, but particularly in the slow movements when their collective ability to play on the edge of their tone with such musical conviction is outstanding.

For some reason, the recording balance of director Lars Ulrich Mortensen’s harpsichord is frequently far too prominent, becoming a distractingly percussive intrusion.  Currently shorn of their usually EU funding, EUBO is trying to survive on the occasional concert and on the sale of CDs like this until stable financial support can be found.  Anybody who has ever heard the talented young players of EUBO (who reform each year – or did, until their recent financial problems) will know how excellent they are, and how important a training experience it is for its members, many of whom go on to distinguished careers.  The CD can be ordered from http://www.eubo.eu/shop/CD713.

Andrew Benson-Wilson
First published in Early Music Review, December 2014

VivaldiCD713