Hidden Treasures from the German Baroque

Friday, January 28, 2011, First Parish, Wayland
Saturday, January 29, 2011, Old South Church, Boston

Quartet in C Major for traverso, viola, cello, and continuo ............ Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708-1763)
    Larghetto alla siciliano • Allegro • Vivace   

Trio Sonata in C Major for chalumeau, bassoon, and continuo ............ Christoph Graupner (1683-1760)
    Largo e giusto • Allegro • Largo—Allegro   
   

Sonata in D Major for traverso, violin, bassoon, and continuo ............ Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758)
    Largo • Allegro   
    Largo • Allegro

Intermission

Trio Sonata in D Minor for traverso, viola (originally viola d’amore), and continuo ............ Graupner
    Senz’ acceleranza • Largo • Allegro, ma non presto   
   
Concerto in G Major for traverso, bassoon, cello, and continuo ............ Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729)
    Andante • Vivace • Allegro   
   

Quartet in F Major for chalumeau, violin (originally oboe), bassoon, and continuo ............ Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783)
    Adagio • Allegretto   
    Adagio • Allegretto ma poco

Mein gläubiges Herze, frohlocke (Aria from Cantata BWV 68) ............ Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

 

Owen Watkins, chalumeau; Suzanne Stumpf, traverso
 Marilyn Boenau, bassoon; Sarah Darling, violin and viola
Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, harpsichord


 

Program Notes

This program features German Baroque chamber music composed for varied combinations of winds and strings, including the less-often heard chalumeau and bassoon. All of the composers presented on this program were kapellmiesters who wrote for their virtuoso colleagues and took full advantage of the rich possibilities afforded by these colorful, mixed instrumentations.

The chalumeau is the rarest of the instruments used on this program. The instrument, an early type of clarinet, was developed in the late 17th century and improved in the early 18th century by the Nuremburg instrument maker J. C. Denner. It was made in four different sizes corresponding to the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass vocal ranges. Some of the eighteenth century’s most renowned composers wrote for it, including Handel, Vivaldi, Telemann, Fux, Caldara, Gluck, Dittersdorf, and others.

Perhaps the most prolific composer for the chalumeau was Christoph Graupner. Graupner’s early musical training included studies at the Thomasschule in Leipzig under Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau. He later composed for and performed at the Hamburg opera and in 1712 become Kapellmeister at the court of Darmstadt. An extremely prolific composer, it was there that he wrote the majority of his works, writing in a variety of genres, including over 1,000 cantatas and hundreds of instrumental works. During his tenure at Darmstadt, he greatly expanded the musical forces and took advantage of the talents of the players of unusual instruments at his disposal. In 1734 he engaged a chalumeau player for the court and subsequently composed almost 100 works utilizing the instrument, making use of all four of its sizes.

Graupner’s trio sonata for bass chalumeau, bassoon, and continuo is one of very few works to use the bass chalumeau as a solo instrument. In this sonata, Graupner seeks to highlight the extraordinary timbres of the instruments and the virtuosity of his intended performers. The two slow movements are extremely florid in their ornamentation, and the two fast movements (both of which are gigues) have a very sparse continuo part, allowing the imitative textures and characters of the two winds to shine.
Graupner’s trio sonata for flute, viola d’amore, and continuo is one of several he composed for this combination. The unusual tempo designation of its first movement, senz’ acceleranza, may possibly indicate a poised character at the beginning of the movement in preparation for the increasingly faster figurations employed as the movement progresses. The work is written in a densely contrapuntal style making frequent use of sequences that, in the final movement, serve to build an exciting conclusion to the piece.

Johann Gottlieb Janitsch was a viol and double bass player at the court of Frederick the Great whose music was greatly admired by his contemporaries. He seemed to be a specialist in quartet writing as there are dozens of beautiful quartets for myriad combinations of instruments that survive, including many rediscovered ones from the recently recovered Berlin Singakademie collection. His Quartet in C Major features the rich sonorities of viola, obbligato cello, and flute, set for the lower range of that instrument. (Janitsch specified oboe as an alternative instrument for this part.) The work highlights his expressive writing and is conversational in its lively instrumental dialogue.

Johann Friedrich Fasch was well-known and respected throughout Germany as a versatile and innovative composer. Fasch attended the University of Leipzig and directed a collegium musicum in that city. His primary post was as Kapellmeister for the court in Zerbst, an appointment he held for 36 years. Fasch’s compositions show great originality, not only structurally, but in their varied instrumentation, including frequent use of wind instruments. The sonata presented on this program includes a virtuoso bassoon part. Although all three instruments are treated equally, in the first two movements, Fasch chooses to have the bassoon initiate the thematic material.

Originally from Leipzig, Johann David Heinichen was a student of Johann Kuhnau at the Thomasschule there. After 1710, he went to Italy in the retinue of the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen. It was there that Heinichen made the acquaintance of the Crown Prince of Dresden and was engaged as Kapellmeister. His chief responsibility was composing for its large virtuoso orchestra. Heinichen developed a special type of festive concerto which highlighted multiple solo instruments and often made use of unusual instrumental  combinations. His penchant for using such colorful instrumentations is prevalent in his chamber works as well, including the Concerto in G Major heard on this program. In this work, he chooses to pair the bass instruments motivically in the outer movements, exploring the rich blend of lower sonorities.

The most famous composer of the Dresden court was undoubtedly Johann Adolf Hasse. Trained and established in Italy, he was invited to Dresden by the Saxon ambassador in Venice in 1731. There he became opera composer for the court, remaining in residence 32 years. While Hasse’s principal focus was on vocal music, he wrote dozens of instrumental works, most of which were penned for the flute-playing King Frederick the Great. The quartet included on this program is one of the few non-flute instrumental works he is known to have composed. In it, the galant lyricism and naturalness he popularized shines through, with smoothly-flowing melodies presented in thirds by alternating pairs of instruments.

To close our program we chose to make use of 18th-century transcription practice in order to highlight the many instruments included in this concert. The soprano aria from Bach’s Cantata BWV 68 presented an ideal opportunity for making an attractive adaptation for our musical forces.

©Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf