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After the Thirty Year's War
The Italian Influence in Germany and Austria, 1650-1685


Passamezzo Moderno
Jonathan Davis, harpsichord and organ
David Granger, dulcian
Edwin Huizinga and Adriane Post, violins
       The I-90 Collective
Linda Tsatsanis, soprano
Carrie Krause, violin
Nathan Whittaker, violoncello
John Lenti, theorbo

The Thirty Years' War was by the far the most destructive conflict of the 17th century. Primarily waged on German soil, the war began as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire. Soon Spain intervened on the side of the Catholics, followed by Denmark for the Protestants. With the defeat of Denmark and the near victory of the Catholic powers, the war was escalated into an European conflict by the invasion of Germany by Protestant Sweden. The death of the Swedish king in battle left a vacuum that the French decided to fill, and the war developed into a political conflict between the monarchies of France and Sweden verses the Hapsburg monarchies of Austria and Spain. The war was brought to an end in 1648 through a series of treaties called the Peace of Westphalia.

The major impact of the Thirty Years' War on the people of Europe was the extensive destruction of much of Germany and the Czech lands. Entire regions were left bare by armies who had to forage for their food and pay. This led to famine and disease that significantly decreased the populations of central Europe, the Low Countries and Italy.

The war's effect on music and musicians in Germany seems as random as the war itself. Musicians in those areas that saw the heaviest conflicts faced near starvation as their employers were not able to pay or even feed them. Others were able to move and avoid those areas affected by the war. Of course, many died, along with up to 30% of the German population. The thriving commercial and arts center of Württemberg lost three-quarters of its population. In the region of Brandenburg, an estimated two-thirds of the people were lost.

Italian Influence

Ferdinand II, whose election in 1618 as next in line to become Holy Roman Emperor precipitated the conflict, kept the Imperial Court in Vienna rich in musicians and musical output despite the near bankruptcy caused by the war. Antonio Bertali was one of many Italian musicians brought to Vienna by Ferdinand II after his coronation as Emperor in 1619. Bertali arrived at the Imperial Court in 1624 at the age of 20 from Verona, bringing with him the new, virtuosic instrumental writing of Italy. Initially serving as a violinist in the imperial chapel, he quickly gained a reputation as a composer and as a violin virtuoso. He became Kapellmeister in 1649 under Ferdinand III, the year after the end of the Thirty Year's War.

Bertali's instrumental sonatas follow the Italian example. His works are multi-sectional, use contrasting meters, dynamics and tempi, and also contrast solo passages with the full ensemble. His music formed the musical taste and style in central Europe during his lifetime. The arts flourished during the time of peace after the war, and Bertali's music was widely distributed.

His Sonata à 4 in D minor is one of 18 works by Bertali found in Jacob Ludwig's Partiturbuch, a collection of scores presented to Ludwig's former employer, Duke August of Wolfenbüttel. The sonata opens with a brief, somber Adagio. A joyful Allegro, a short, homophonic Adagio, and yet another joyful Allegro then follow, all typical Italian writing. The musical ideas presented so far form the basis for four interludes that follow, some rhapsodic in character and for each instrument in turn. Replacing the more common dance in triple meter found in sonatas of the day, Bertali provides a slow passacaglia based on the tetra-chord A-G-F-E. Rounding out the sonata is a brief return of the second Allegro and a final Adagio.

Bertali's short Sonata à 3 in A minor begins with a wistful Adagio which concludes with a brief rhapsodic duet for the violins over a sustained bass note E in the dulcian. The lively Allegro that follows uses an ostinato bass based on a well known chaconne from Monteverdi's Zefiro torna.

The Adoption of the Italian Style in Germany and Austria

A notable characteristic of 17th century German composers is their ability to absorb the best from foreign styles. Enthusiastically adopting the Italian style of instrumental writing, they also brought to the Italian style what may be called their "native seriousness," a preference for slow and elaborate music. They also added a bass instrument to the continuo, a practice believed not done in early Italian sonatas.

Although known as a violin virtuoso, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer began his career as a cornettist in St. Stephen's Catherdral in Vienna. Due to his extraordinary ability as a violinist, he was taken into the Hofkapelle in Vienna in 1649, the same year Bertali became Kappellmeister. Schmelzer himself was appointed Kapellmeister by Leopold I in 1679. The first non-Italian to hold this post in many decades, Schmelzer's tenure was to be brief. He died from the plague in 1680 in Prague, ironically where the court had fled to escape the pestilence.

The Sonata con tribus violinis dates from 1677, late in Schmelzer's life. Although written at a time when Schemlzer's work was departing from pre-established patterns of Italian composers, this sonata remains homogeneous and related to earlier Italian traditions. A lyrical opening Adagio which introduces each instrument and the ensemble in turn is followed by a cheerful Allegro. Another somber Adagio and a very brief Allegro intervene before the section in triple meter. Normally reserved for a dance-like melody, Schmelzer uses this section in three for some virtuoso display by each violinist again in turn. The usual brief Adagio closes the sonata.

Much of Schmelzer's works are preserved today due to his close contact with the Prince-Bishop Olomouc, Carl Liechtenstein-Castelcorn, who resided in KromŹriz, Moravia. The Sonata à 5 is in this group of compositions preserved by the Prince-Bishop. Originally for tromba, fagotto, two violins and basso continuo. a third violin has been substituted for the trumpet part following the practice of the time where the instrumentation was determined by the players at hand rather than the composer's indication. The dulcian leads off the sonata beginning in the Italian style with an Allegro. The logical pairing of instruments, winds vs. strings, holds true only for the tromba (now violin) and duclian. The dulcian continues when the two violins begin, resulting in a very active part for the dulcian throughout. Each violin has a rhapsodic solo in turn, and it is not until the end of the final dance that all instruments play together.

In 1647 the Prince Bishop of Würzburg became Bishop of Mainz and as such a Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire. A Catholic in a Protestant region, he sought musical help in his counter-reformation efforts, and he chose Philipp Friedrich Buchner, who had converted to Roman Catholicism a few years earlier while in Poland, as Kapellmeister for the Würzburg court in 1649. The Prince Bishop brought Buchner to Mainz to serve in the same role in 1662. In his year of appointment to Mainz, Buchner published a collection of sonatas, Plectrum musicum, which he dedicated to the Frankfurt city council. At both courts, Buchner had modest musical forces at his disposal – only a handful of voices and strings, a dulcian, and basso continuo. A dramatic Adagio, where the violins alternate with the dulcian, opens Bucher's Sonata XV, but in the following triple meter dance and final Presto, all participate throughout. A brief Adagio, quoting the opening bars, closes the sonata.

Johann Ernst Rieck succeeded his father as organist at St. Thomas in Strasbourg in 1652. His compilation of dances, Neue Allemanden, Giques, Balletten, Couranten, Sarabanden und Gavotten, shows the mark of French taste. (The Strasbourg Republic, neutral in the Thirty Year's War, was annexed by France in 1681.) In mid-17th century Europe, lutenists and keyboardists were popularizing French dance music, and in his compilation's preface, Rieck explains that he borrowed much from this repertoire. The suites published by Rieck are dedicated to Christian Ernst, Prince of Bayreuth and Margrave of Brandenburg, who earlier took organ lessons from Rieck while the prince was a student at the Strasbourg university.

Rieck's sixth Suite is characterized by a mix of influences. For example, the use of three violins is evident of Italian influence. The French culture is evident in the melodies, but the structuring of the voices is again Italian. This suite is original to Rieck, unlike the suites owing their melodies to lutenists, and its dense texture is indicative of German taste. The choice of dances also follows the taste of the time – allemande, courante, sarabande, and an ending gigue or gavotte – although, the opening allemande is entitled Ballet, reminiscent of dance suites from earlier in the century and indicative of the traditional character of these pieces.

Born in Saxony close to the border with the Czech Republic, Johann Rosenmüller was educated in Leipzig. In 1655, he had to flee Leipzig and the St. Thomas School, where he was teaching assistant, after being charged with pederasty. He resurfaced as a sackbut player at St. Mark's in Venice in 1658, calling himself Giovanni Rosenmiller. In 1678 he became composer at Ospedale della PiŹta (later made famous by Vivaldi.) In 1682 he returned to Germany, late in his life, to be Kapellmesiter at the court of Braunschweig-Wolfenbütel.

Rosenmüller's Sonata à 2. 3. 4. è 5. stromenti da arco & altri of 1682 was written in Venice and clearly follows Venetian style. The collection was dedicated to Duke Anton Ulrich of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, whom Rosenmüller would soon serve, and published in Nuremberg, where Rosenmüller's earlier collections had been published. The Sonata IV from this collection is basically in four sections, each interspersed with brief, homophonic Adagios. The opening, dazzling Presto is repeated at the end, commonly done in much Italian instrumental music of the time. The central section is a soulful Adagio with a chromatic fugal theme to which the following Presto, in triple meter, provides a light contrast.

The Sacred Concerto

The Italian vocal-instrumental concerto was adopted by German composers for Lutheran religious music. Such works, often based on the melody of a chorale or German hymn, became the ancestors of the German church cantata. Notable German composers of the vocal-instrumental concerto include Michael Praetorius and Heinrich Schütz. Heinrich Schutz was central in the German development of the Italian concertato style, contrasting voice against instruments, into sacred contexts. Other German Baroque composers contributed to the genre. Eventually, this development led to the cantatas of Dietrich Buxtehude.

Although his 1682 collection is probably one of the finest of its time, Johann Rosenmüller's instrumental music was quickly forgotten, superceded by the sonatas and concertos of Corelli and his contemporaries. Judging from the number of surviving sources, however, Rosenmüller was one of the most popular composers of church music in northern Germany in the 17th century. In Venice Rosemüller composed sacred music in Latin exclusively for use in the Catholic church, yet his collections are preserved all over Germany, where they probably would have been used in a different liturgical context.

Rosenmüller's In te, Domine, speravi is set to the first six verses of the Latin Psalm 30 together with the appended Gloria Patri, traditionally sung in the office of Compline. This concerted psalm contains an extended arioso section of five verses, each verse separated by an instrumental ritornello. At "In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum" (Into thy hands I commit my spirit) in verse 6, however, a more dramatic style is used to express the words of the dying Jesus on the cross, while the closing Gloria Patri allows the soprano to display some vocal virtuosity.

Nearly all of composer and organist Christian Geist's extant compositions date from his time at the Swedish court, 1675-1685. Born in Güstrow in Mecklenburg (North Germany), Geist's first position was at the court of Duke Gustav Adolph of Mecklenburg. In 1669, he joined the Danish court chapel as a bass player, but left the following year for the Swedish Court Chapel under the direction of Gustaf Düben, whose collection is now the most important source of Buxtehude's music. He stayed until 1679 and composed many church cantatas, now all part of the Düben Collection of Manuscripts at the University Library at Uppsala.

Geist's vocal works are related in form and style to the contemporary Italian concerted motet; indeed, he called them 'motetto'. The simple counterpoint and expressive harmonic and melodic nature of these works is typically Italian, while the extravagant use of the violin in De funere ad vitam is rooted in the German tradition.

Dietrich Buxtehude, organist and composer, was born in Helsingborg, Denmark, now part of Sweden. His father had immigrated from Holstein (northern Germany) in 1641, eventually working in HelsingŅr at St. Olai Church, called the German church because it served the foreigners of the community. Buxtehude was to succeed his father in this position in 1660. In 1668, Buxtehude was appointed organist and Werkmeister (administrator and treasure for the church - a position of great prestige) at St. Mary's in Lübeck in Holstein, and in the same year he became a German citizen. He remained in this position until his death.

Although Buxtehude never held a position that required him to compose vocal music, he left over 120 vocal works in a very wide range of texts, almost all sacred. Few of these works can be considered liturgical music for the Lutheran church, but were probably performed during Abendmusiken, concerts presently regularly by Buxtehude and organized separately from his church duties.

Buxtehude matches the Latin devotional O dulcis Jesu, a text that is emotionally charged with the love of Jesus, with equally affective music. O dulcis Jesu resembles an Italian secular cantata in its style and virtuosity, and Buxtehude's setting follows its fluid mixture of prose and poetry: the prose portions are in recitative and concertato style, while the poetry is more like an aria.

The sacred concerto, Schaffe in mir, Gott, is divided into two large and contrasting sections, each set to a verse or two of the psalm. In the first section, Buxtehude is especially attentive to the text with musical phrases declaimed by the soprano and echoed by the violins. This is particularly obvious with "verwirf mich nicht" (cast me not away). A joyful affect is key to the second section in a dance-like triple meter.

Buxtehude's jubilant O fröhliche Studen, O fröhliche Zeit is set to a sacred song published by Johann Rist in 1655. Unlike the sectional works characteristic of Italian style, this aria has a consistent 6/8 meter throughout, giving it a strong unity despite frequent instrumental interjections. Especially noteworthy is the cry of exultation on the opening syllable and the militaristic music of the third verse, "Es fand sich kein Krieger". This aria presages the music of the late Baroque and especially that of J. S. Bach, a great admirer of Buxtehude.

Throughout the 17th century, and much of European history, Italy was the center and inspirational focus of music and the arts. The development of opera, basso continuo, and the rise of the freely expressive style of instrumental music provoked an outpouring of new forms of music in Italy and all of Europe. Musicians from all over Europe traveled to Italy to learn and to bring back their labor, spread the Italian model outward. The German culture responded especially to the energetic model of Italian music, but in ways that reflected native traditions and occupations. German and Austrian composers absorbed the lessons of the Italian masters and adapted their style to their own ends, perhaps more sober and less effusive, at once serious and virtuosic, and with profound expression.

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Bertali:

Sonata a 4

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Sonata 8 a 3

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Sonata 4 a 3

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