THE VIOLIN’S DELIGHT - A GARDEN OF PLEASURE, 17TH CENTURY VIRTUOSO VIOLIN MUSIC
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Official release date: 21.07.17
“ … Wohl-gepflanzter Violinischer Lust-Garten” (Well-Planted Violin Pleasure Garden) – such was the title employed by Johann Jacob Walther for a second printing of the sonata-like preludes for solo violin and basso continuo originally issued back in 1688. Published in Mainz in 1694, the re-edition reaffirmed his reputation as a virtuoso master violinist with a further compositional calling card. Contrary to what a Baroque “garden” might suggest, as exemplified by the volume’s frontispiece with its perfectly straight axes and neatly fenced-in vegetation, the German violin music of the 17th century is anything but predictable and orderly. The sonatas and dance movements of our recording instead reveal a pleasure in unfettered thinking and experimentation requiring full command of the compositional and technical craft while also unleashing fantastical fabulations of the hands and the mind.
Splendidly appointed courts, such as those found in Vienna, Salzburg and Dresden, cultivated a noble art of intellectually refined entertainment, which included imitative programme pieces along with musical “bizarrities” of the sort that was especially cherished by Olomouc Prince-Bishop Karl Liechtenstein-Castelcorn, situated in the Moravian town of Kromeriz, and which he specifically requested in letters to his resident composers. The spectrum of means mobilised to this end ranged from feigned polyphony on the melodic instrument of violin achieved through double stops and the deliberate mistuning of strings to create unusual resonances (scordatura) up to experimental incursions on the boundaries of Baroque harmonics, with some pieces generating ear-provoking sound effects that would typically be ascribed to 20th century modernism. Not rooted in any desire to please, this sphere combined occult harmonic speculation with bold wit and unbridled virtuosity, evincing the instrumental style’s growing emancipation from the vocal movement framework and demonstrating how artistic skill could provide a rare opportunity for social advancement within a rigid class-based society – as astonishingly attained in the personal biographies of figures like Biber, Schmelzer, Walther and Kerll.