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.

Bach & Entourage: Sonatas for Violin and Basso continuo

Bach & Entourage
Johannes Pramsohler, violin, Philippe Grisvard, harpsichord
Audax ADX13703. 65’11

Sonatas for Violin and Basso continuo by Bach, Pisendel, Graun and Krebs

I have been watching violinist Johannes Pramsohler make his mark in the world of period violin playing over the past few years, and this CD shows that his growing reputation is well deserved. This well-chosen programme of relatively unknown Sonatas from the Bach circle, is a telling reminder that although his later fame came from his organ playing, Bach’s early childhood was spent learning the violin from his violinist father. As Pramsohler’s notes point out, it was only when the 10 year-old Bach, now orphaned, moved into his organ-playing elder brother’s house, that he started to focus on the organ. But he kept his father’s violin, his only inheritance, all his life. Although only one work is definitely by Bach, with two possibly Bach’s, Bach is suffused throughout the other works, by Pisendel, Graun and Krebs, representing the extraordinary flowering of musical talent in 18th century Weimar, Leipzig and Dresden.  The Graun and Krebs works are world premiere recordings, taking us into a slightly later musical period.  The CD ends with Bach’s extraordinary Fugue in g (BWV 1026).   Continue reading