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Program Notes

17th Century German Chamber Music

In the early 17th century, Italian musicians began to spread the new Baroque style of music throughout Europe as they searched for employment and fame. Similarly, musicians from all over Europe, notably those employed by nobles who wished to bring their court up to date musically, came to Italy to study with Italian masters. By the mid-17th century, German-speaking lands were saturated with Italian music and Italian musicians. German and Austrian composers absorbed the new style and adapted it to their own culture well.

It is therefore appropriate to begin a 17th Century German program with one of the most influential Italian musicians in central Europe of the time. Antonio Bertali was born and trained in Verona, Italy, but spent most of his career at the Imperial Court in Vienna, first as a court violinist, then assuming the position of Kappellmeister in 1649. Although his sonatas presage the importance of the violin, Bertali is most often recognized as the first composer to produce Italian operas for non-Italian audiences. He was the last of long line of Italian Kappellmeisters to lead the Imperial Court musicians.

Although known as a violin virtuoso, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer began his career as a cornettist in St. Stephen's Cathedral 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 succeeded Bertali as Kapellmeister 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. Schmelzer was the leading Austrian composer of instrumental music, making an influential contribution to the development of the sonata and suite. Most of his instrumental sonatas rely strongly on the variation principle, often consist of a number of short sections in contrasting meters and tempos, and usually allow a great display of virtuoso technique.

Matthias Weckmann was a principal figure of German musical life in the 17th Century. Born in Thuringia, he first worked in Dresden, then the Danish Court, Lübeck, and ended his career as organist in the Jakobikirche in Hamburg. Weckmann's composition output is principally for keyboard, but he also wrote a number of instrumental works. His lovely trio sonatas are of modest dimensions and in the Italian style.

Johann Michael Nicolai from 1655 until his death played the violone in the Stuttgart court orchestra. In several of his numerous instrumental works the lower instruments, such as the bass viol and the bassoon, are contrasted with the violins or viols independently of the basso continuo. This is the case throughout Instrumentalishcer Sachen - 12 sonatas, all of which are for 2 violins, 4 for viola da gamba and the remaining 8 for dulcian, and basso continuo.

Johann Erasmus Kindermann was born in Nuremberg. After a visit to Italy, he remained in Nuremberg for the rest of his life, becoming an acclaimed musician and teacher. Kindermann was also instrumental in spreading the Italian style in music in south Germany, publishing several collections of his own music and of others.

Born in Adorf, Saxony, German composer and organist, Johann Caspar Kerll was widely admired as an organist. As a composer, he primarily wrote music for keyboard and for the church. From 1647 to 1656 he was organist at the Brussels court of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, who sent him to Rome to study with Carissimi. In 1656, he became Kapellmeister at the court of the Elector Ferdinand Maria in Munich. In 1673, after a quarrel with Italian singers at the Munich court, he abruptly resigned and moved to Vienna. In 1677 Kerll became an organist at the Imperial Court but eventually returned to Munich.

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.

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 Pièta (later made famous by Vivaldi.) In 1682 he returned to Germany, late in his life, to be Kapellmeister 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.

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