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Across the Alps, Part II
The Continuing Italian Influence in Germany, 1648-1688

The series of European wars that are grouped together under the title "The Thirty Years War" were over in 1648. The war left large sections of Germany with half its previous population, although the Catholic southeast and Protestant northwest were largely untouched. Despite the devastation caused by the war, most urban areas in northern and central Germany quickly rebounded. Musical life regenerated, creating a number of cultural centers, such as Hamburg, Leipzig and Nuremberg, which also became major trading partners with cities in Italy.

Rivalry and Reformation/Counter Reformation efforts by both secular and religious monarchs, especially heated in the Holy Roman Empire, encouraged receptivity to outside musical influences, in particular from Italy. Adaption of older German traditions to the Italian style can be most seen in motets and the sacred madrigal. These forms developed into the chorale cantata and, for smaller ensembles, the sacred concerto. The number of sacred works by composers such as Dietrich Buxtehude indicates music's central position in the Protestant church in Germany and elsewhere in northern Europe.

Just as in the first half of the 17th Century, German monarchs and churches brought Italian composers and performers to Germany and sent their own composers and performers to Italy in order to stay up-to-date in their court or religious musical presentations. Since there was no shortage of Italian musicians willing to travel, the Italian influence continued to dominate instrumental music in Germany. Composers wrote large quantities of ensemble music to perform themselves as part of their duties in their church or court's chapel. The most popular music was published for consumption by the new urban middle class. The fascination with the trio sonata did not occur until the 18th century, but we can see its growing popularity due to the number of instrumental works by Erasmus Kindermann, Johann Rosenmüller, and Dietrich Becker.

Although Johann Rosenmüller (1619-1684) is considered a German composer, he spent a major part of his career in Italy. The music he wrote while in Italy was regarded highly in Germany, making him an important Italian influence in German music. His Kern-Sprüche of 1648, a collection of sacred concertos, exemplifies Rosenmüller's connection with Heinrich Schütz, who had previously beautifully adapted the Italian motet to the German style to create sacred concertos. Rosenmüller was also Schütz's Leipzig agent for the distribution of the 1647 set of Schütz's Symphoniae sacrae. Rosenmüller's promising career in Leipzig came to an abrupt halt in 1655 when he, and several schoolboys of the Thomasschule, were arrested and imprisoned on the charge of homosexuality. Escaping prison, Rosenmüller fled to Venice. By 1660 he had established himself as a trombonist and composer at S Marco. In 1678 Rosenmüller also gained the post of composer at the Ospedale della PietÓ (later made famous by Vivaldi.) The Italian influence is clearly evident in Rosenmüller's 1682 sonata collection. As with Rosenmüller's sacred concertos, these sonatas were probably intended for church use. Many consider them Rosenmüller's instrumental masterpieces. In the same year as the publication of this collection, Rosenmüller returned to Germany to serve as Kapellmeister at the court at Wolfenbüttel, where he spent the remainder of his life.

From 1655 on, Johann Michael Nicolai (1629-1685) played the violone and other instruments in the Stuttgart court orchestra. Before 1655, he was in the court orchestra of the Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg, which frequently performed for the Margrave of Brandenburg. It is to Margrave Christian Ernst that Nicolai dedicated his first set of Instrumentalische Sachen of 1675. In these sonatas the bass viol or the bassoon is paired with 2 violins but performs independently of the continuo. All sonatas have moderately paced sections followed by brief adagios. Nicolai frequently uses the same thematic material in various permutations in each section of the sonatas.

Samuel Capricornus (1628-1665) went to the imperial court in Vienna in 1649, where he came to know the music of Giovanni Valentini and Antonio Bertali, Italian Kappelmeisters for Ferdinand II. He became Kapellmeister to the Württemberg court at Stuttgart in 1657, where J. M. Nicolai was a musician. Capricornus was one of the few, German composers whose sacred music was widely distributed, making him an important link in the chain of composers of sacred concertos from Schütz through Bach. In Scelta musicale, as in many of his collections, Capricornus uses a Latin devotional text set in an expressive, Italianate manner. All of the sacred concertos of Scelta musicale are for a single solo voice, 2 violins and continuo.

Roman Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (fl. 1660-69) published his Sonata a Violino solo, op. 4, when he was a violinist for Archduke Ferdinand of Austria at Innsbruck. The four sonatas are each dedicated to a famous musician. La Bernabea is to the most illustrious and most revered "Signor D. Joseffo Bernabei mio Signore Singularissimo." Bernabei was a maestro di cappella of S Luigi in Rome. La Monella Romanesca is to Felippo Bombaglia, "Musico del Altezza Serenissima di Inspruch e mio Signore singularissimo," and a soprano serving with Pandolfi Mealli in Innsbruck. Rhapsodic improvisations over a simple continuo accompaniment characterize the four sonatas of opus 4.

At age 15 Johann Erasmus Kindermann (1616-1655) was already receiving an annual salary to play violin and sing bass in Sunday afternoon concerts at the Frauenkirche in Nuremberg. He continued in this position until 1634 or 1635, when the city council gave him permission and money to visit Italy and study the new style of music at its source. Little is know of his time in Italy, but he may have known Carissimi, Frescobaldi and Merula, since he published their music in a collection that included his own music. After a year in Italy, he returned home to become organist of the Egidienkirche. Canzoni, sonatae is Kindermann's fourth instrumental collection, full of imaginative and adventurous music. An early example of German violin music and a forerunner of Biber's sonatas, the collection contains 41 works for one to three violins, cello and continuo. 27 are designated 'canzon' and nine 'sonata'. Ruggiero sopra: Fillis occurs at the end of the collection and is a set of variations.

Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707) never held a position that required him to compose sacred concertos and arias, but these works have survived in a greater number than his instrumental works, largely due to his benefactor Gustaf Düben. Düben's collection was compiled during Buxtehude's lifetime and with Buxtehude's knowledge. Given to the Uppsala University Library in 1732 by Düben's son, the collection has 99 manuscripts of sacred concertos, arias, and other vocal works by Buxtehude. Most of the 99 works can be dated in the years between 1680 and 1687, the year Düben ceased collecting Buxtehude's music. Buxtehude generally uses both German and Latin biblical prose for his sacred concertos, but German poetry predominate the texts of his arias. O dulcis Jesu, BuxWV 83, is one of only three vocal concertos that use a non-biblical Latin text. The style is more similar to a lyrical aria and can be said to approach the Italian secular cantata. However, the focus of Buxtehude's vocal output was not concertos, but arias. The aria, O fröhliche Stunden, BuxWV 84, uses a German strophic text where no lines are repeated but the music yet is unified by a continuous style and ritornello, where the strings and voice alternate using identical thematic material.

Johann Valentin Meder (1649-1719) was born into a musical family. He knew Italian in his youth and was familiar with the music of Italian composers such as Carissimi and Antonio Cesti. A singer of repute, an excellent organist and a notable composer, he began his musical career as a court singer, first at Gotha in 1671, Bremen in 1672-3, Hamburg in 1673 and Copenhagen and Lübeck (where he met Buxtehude) in 1674. From 1674 to 1680 Meder was Kantor at the Gymnasium at Reval (now Tallinn, capital of Estonia) and in 1687 became Kapellmeister at the Marienkirche, Danzig. After being dismissed from this post in 1698, Meder eventually went to Riga, capital of Latvia, where stayed until his death. The influence of Buxtehude can be found in Meder's sacred music, as in Ach Herr, strafe mich nicht in deinem Zorn (Psalmkonzert), which is similarly lyrical to Buxtehude's sacred arias.

In 1670 Christian Geist (ca 1650-1711) took a position in Stockholm as a bass singer and musician at the Swedish court under Gustaf Düben. In 1679, he was appointed organist at the German church in G÷teborg, and in 1684 went to Copenhagen, where he was organist at several churches until his death from the plague. Nearly all of Geist's sacred works with Latin texts were intended for court services and composed during his years in Stockholm. De funere ad vitam: Alleluia which he called a motetto, is similar to the Italian concerted motet, with distinct sections that alternating between violin and voice in aria style, as in the vocal concertos of Buxtehude. It's expressive harmonies and simple counterpoint is Italian, while the flowing violin part points to Geist's German heritage.

Dietrich Becker (1623-1679) began his career as an organist, but evidently decided devote himself entirely to the violin, becoming one of the most prominent north German violinists of the second half of the 17th century. Surprisingly, none of his organ or solo violin works have survived. Becker first came to Hamburg in 1662, beginning is career there as a simple Musicant, but by 1668 had become the director of the Hamburg town musicians. He was also a member of the influential collegium musicum founded by Matthias Weckmann, which met weekly at the Hamburg Cathedral and which he is said to have led for a while. Musicalische Frühlings-Früchte of 1688, which Becker re-published from a 1673 version called Musicalische Lendt-Fruchten, is for 3-5 instruments and continuo. The sonatas are Italian in character with sections of contrasting meter and tempo and prominently feature a fast fugue.

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