- Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (b. 1620 - d. 1680)
- Composition Year
- Sophie Gent [violin], David Miller [lute], Jonathan Cohen [harpsichord]
|Composer||Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (b. 1620 - d. 1680)|
|Work Title||Sonatas III and IV from Sonatae unarum fidium|
|Artist(s)||Sophie Gent [violin], David Miller [lute], Jonathan Cohen [harpsichord]|
|Performance Date||Wednesday 1st July 2015|
|Performance Venue||St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland|
|Recording Engineer||Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm|
|Instrumentation||vn, lute, hpd|
|Programme Note Writer||© Francis Humphrys|
These two Sonatas bookend this recital. When Schmelzer began his career as a violinist in the Viennese inperial court, the Austrian musical world was dominated by Italians. The Hofkapellmeister had been an Italian for as long as anyone could remember and Italian violinists were playing works by Marini, Uccellini, Viviani and Pandolfi Mealli. By the end of his life, Schmelzer had overturned this order; he himself had become the first non-Italian Kapellmeister at the Viennese court and was considered to be one of the most famous, distinguished violinists in the whole of Europe.
He was hugely influential in the development of violin technique and instrumental music in 17th century Austria. There is no doubt that he was influenced by the Italian composers who were responsible for introducing solo violin repertoire to northern climes, such as Marini, Fontana and Uccellini. Schmelzer in turn influenced the later German and Austrian composersThere is much debate as to whether or not he was Biber’s teacher, the case cannot be proved, attractive though the idea is. But it is timely to hear them both in the same programme.
The six Sonatae unarum fidium were most likely intended for the composer’s own use as a performer. The description Sonatae unarum fidium, meaning literally sonatas for one violin, is part of an elaborate and learned dedication to Cardinal Carlo Caraffa that trades on the double meanings of Fidium, and should not be taken to mean solo violin without continuo. Schmelzers hyberbolic dedication has been wondefully described by the violinist, Andrew Manze, as a riot of resonance.
As with his successor, Heinrich Biber, another violinist-composer, Schmelzer’s genius lies in his ability to translate the art of improvisation into the permanence of a sonata without losing the immediacy of the improviser. Most of his sonatas rely strongly on the variation principle and consist of a number of short sections in contrasting meters and tempos, but in the solo violin sonatas these sections are extended to allow a greater display of his astounding virtuosity. Both sonatas are through composed creating a uniquely rich sound world, perhaps only matched by Biber’s wonderful set of eight solo sonatas.