Posts tagged ‘music history’

October 12, 2015

Valtice – Johannes Matthias Sperger: Sinfonia F-Dur (Ankunfts-Sinfonie)

by ada

Another post in the Travel Series, because I’m totally taking this seriously! This time it’s about Johannes Matthias Sperger, an Austrian composer and double bass player, born in Valtice (which at the time, as part of the Habsburg empire, was called Feldsberg), just about four months before Johann Sebastian Bach died.*

Although according to contemporary sources a virtuoso double bass player, Sperger wasn’t a particularly interesting person, neither did he have a very unusual life (for 18th century standards, that is), so unfortunately there isn’t much to tell about him. He was born (obviously), learnt to play the double bass from Johann Georg Albrechtsberger***, worked for the Hungarian nobility (specifically for Batthyány József and Erdődy Lajos), entered Freemasonry, lost his job, toured Europe and finally ended up at the Ludwigslust court of Friedrich Franz I. He died in some Salmonella infection at the age of 62, and nobody remembers him anymore but the double bass players because nobody has ever composed for the double bass but Sperger and Dittersdorf so they have to appreciate every tiny piece of music they’ve got, poor guys.

Here is a photo of Valtice, in case you’ve already forgotten how it looks. It’s very likely not the same view as Sperger got to enjoy it about 250 years ago, but it’s still rather nice.

Valtice Chateau 117

I decided to post the only work of Sperger that has any historical relevance: the Sinfonia F-Dur, also called Ankunfts-Sinfonie, composed in 1796 for the king Friedrich Wilhelm II von Preußen, a decent violoncello player himself. It is a reference to Joseph Haydn’s Sinfonie Nr 45, the famous Abschieds-Sinfonie, written in 1772 for the prince Esterházy Miklós József.

* and he died just a week before Joseph Wölfl did**

** finding a correlation between intimate biographical details of insignificant composers totally helps you navigate in the jungle of music history, haha

*** a post on him is coming too****, because remember? It was only a few months ago that I went to his birthplace

**** I’m bursting with unnecessary information on the lives and times of minor composers, all deceased at least two hundred years ago, so hold on! Only a few decades until I retire and will have All The Time to write All The Blog Posts!

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September 18, 2015

Mödling – Ludwig van Beethoven: Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier, Nr. 29 Op. 106

by ada

When the idea of the Travel Series first occurred to me, it seemed totally feasible. Like, go to places and then write about their relevance in classical music. Well, as it turns out, I do the first part (“go to places”) really well, but have some serious problems regarding the second. I visited Mödling exactly five months ago, managed to post my photos of it only one month later, and then life happened and everything became more important than Ludwig van Beethoven, whose music I don’t really fancy anyway.

But now! I still have 35 minutes left of my lunch break and I’m determined to use it the right way and show the world the places where Beethoven spent 5 summers of his life composing great music like the Diabelli-Variations (I’ve never got over the third variation, because it is so boring I am no pianist), the Mödlinger Tänze (which later turned out to not be from Beethoven at all), the Missa Solemnis (vocal works written after 1790 make me nervous) and the somewhat weird Piano Sonata Nr 29, one of the two sonatas he wrote specifically for the fortepiano.

Beethoven spent the summers of 1818-1819-1820 in this house, called Hafnerhaus, owned at the time by the potter Jakob Tuschek:

Untitled 6

And this is where he wrote the biggest part of his Missa Solemnis in the summer of 1820:

Untitled 136

And here is Beethoven himself, looking wild and dark, as usual:

Untitled 18

And now, after this totally uninformative introduction, let’s listen to the 4. movement (Introduction and Fuga) of the great sonata for fortepiano, Große Sonate für das Hammerklavier, Nr. 29 Op. 106, written during the troublesome* summer of 1818 on the first floor of the Hafnerhaus and dedicated to his student, the archbishop Rudolph of Austria.

* as it seems, neither housekeepers nor maids could put up with the temper tantrums of the great Beethoven for more than 4 weeks at a time, so he spent most of his time sitting in his room and being hungry while waiting for the maid who has already run away the evening before**

** doing something to help themselves is obviously not an option for geniuses. They have to either be served or keep starving. Going out to buy food is for lowly commons***

*** can you tell I don’t really like Beethoven?

April 1, 2015

music for Holy Tuesday – Johann Gottlieb Janitsch: Sonata da Camera in G minor

by ada

Instruments only for today’s music – one of the quartets that are so typical for the work of Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, the viola da gamba player of the Berlin court of the German emperor Friedrich II (der Große). Its third movement, an Adagio ma non troppo, is an adaptation of the old church hymn O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden. Originally written by Arnulf of Leuven in the 13th century as part of the religious poem Salve mundi salutare/Rhythmica oratio, translated to German by Paul Gerhardt in 1656, adapted to the melody of the love song Mein G’müt ist mir verwirret that appeared first in Hans Leo Haßler‘s 1601 collection Lustgarten neuer teutscher Gesäng, by Johann Crüger already in 1640, but only published in 1656, in the sixth edition of his collection of Protestant church hymns Praxis pietatis melica, and still being a source of inspiration for Janitsch (and co.) somewhere around the middle of the 18th century – this hymn definitively has what we should call a fruitful career.

Although on this recording the melody instruments are the oboe, the violin and the viola, it was originally composed for two violas and the traverso. The latter most likely was played by Friedrich II himself, as he is known to have been an amateur but very enthusiastic and talented flute player (and a lover of music, literature and arts in general. And also a lover of potatoes, but that’s another story). My favourite travelling music historian, Charles Burney has witnessed him playing and, as reported in his Continental Travels 1770-1772, was “much pleased and even surprised” with the King’s musical production. He found it important to mention though, that the capacity of His Royal Lungs has noticeably declined with age and “he was obliged to take his breath, contrary to rule, before the passages were finished”. Poor Friedrich.

December 26, 2014

music for the 2. Day of Christmas – Dietrich Buxtehude: Das neugeborne Kindelein, BuxWV 13

by ada

I originally intended to post this cantata for Christmas Day, but, alas, my scheduling skills aren’t the ones I can be proud of. You would think there’s no way to confuse 25 with 26, but you’re wrong. I’m really talented if it comes to creating chaos. Anyway. This is one of my favourite Christmas music ever (let’s forget the fact that this piece was written for New Year’s Eve, shall we?) and I am not willing to leave it out of this series just because I still can’t do proper maths after going to school for 25 years. Ha, ha.

Dietrich (orig. Diderik Hansen) Buxtehude, although of Danish origin, is one of the greatest names in the history of the Early(ish) German Baroque music. During his lifetime he was well acknowledged and of a considerable reputation, and served as a role model for many younger composers like Händel, Mattheson and even Johann Sebastian Bach who, at the age of twenty, walked more than 300 kms from Arnstadt to Lübeck to study with him. He (Bach) rejected Buxtehude’s offer to marry his oldest daughter, Anna Margareta, though. He wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea of marrying into the Buxtehude family, but his choice of wife would have been Dorothea Catrin, the youngest of Buxtehude’s six daughters. Unfortunately, Buxtehude was a man who liked things organised neatly everything to go the way of proper 17th century social customs, like successors marry the daughters of their predecessors and oldest daughters marry first. Poor Anna Margareta who, being somewhat over-proportioned and, at thirty, well over the desirable age, has a few years earlier already been rejected by both Johann Matheson and Georg Friedrich Händel. She obviously wasn’t that sweet little thing twenty-year-old composers dream of when applying for new jobs that come with a wife. Don’t worry, she did not end up as a spinster though: in 1707, at the age of 38, she wedded Johann Christian Schieferdecker, a composer of no real importance but a man of enough courage to take the risk of marrying a woman wanted by nobody. Brave guy.

And now let’s hope this post will go up on the 2. Day of Christmas instead of on Good Friday 2015.

February 18, 2014

music of the week – Francesco Rasi: Ahi, fuggitivo ben

by ada

I have mentioned Francesco Rasi before: he was that wild, adventurous, and quite impetuous singer, who took the script of Claudio Monteverdi‘s opera L’Orfeo with him to Salzburg, where he, with the help of Archbishop Markus Sittikus, produced and sung the leading role of the first opera performance in the German world ever and became thereby responsible for that exaggerated Teuton love of operas, which, some 250 years later, resulted in Wagner‘s Götterdämmerung. I try really hard not to blame him for it.

Rasi was also on quite bad terms with his stepmother, and after murdering her servant who was in charge for her estate, he tried to kill her too. He didn’t succeed though and had to flee. He was condemned to death by the court of Arezzo so he took refuge at first in Prague and then in Salzburg. Apart of his murderous nature, Rasi was a very talented, virtuoso and well-known singer of his time, who was a student of Giulio Caccini and whom “not only Italy but even all Europe venerated.” * ** He also played various instruments and composed a few volumes of music, mostly short songs in the early seventeenth century style of pure monody. One of these songs is Ahi, fuggitivo ben from his 1608 collection Vaghezze di Musica per una voce sola, where he, from a perspective of the abandoned lover, complains about the misery of being a fugitive. The moral of the story? Don’t try to murder your relatives (or anybody, actually) if you want to lead a relaxed life and plan to retire at your birthplace.

* letter from Don Gregorio Rasi to his nephew Giulio Francesco Rasi around 1650

** He was also deeply impressed by the weapons of the Hungarian artillery which he encountered during his 1601 travels. Am I the only one to find this small detail of his life quite charming? Oh, those times when music was still real as life! Why, why do I have to live in this boring age of global warming, genetically modified food and tumblr aesthetics?

February 1, 2014

music of the week – Anton Cajetan Adlgasser: Sinfonia in E flat Major CatAd 15:10

by ada

Anton Cajetan Adlgasser, organist of the Salzburg Cathedral between 1750-1777 and composer of countless Schuldramas for the University of Salzburg, that are all forgotten by now, is remembered mostly for being the father of Maria Victoria Adlgasser, Nannerl Mozart‘s bff, and for writing the third, now missing part of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s first oratorio, Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots (the second part was composed by Michael Haydn) (fyi, Mozart was only eleven years old at the time when he finished it. What does your eleven years old child do with their life?) (Okay, I’m obviously kidding now. Mozart couldn’t write a sentence in proper German at the age of thirty. He clearly had his weak points too).

Adlgasser became a victim of Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach‘s generous policy of providing his staff with free wine, and suffered a deadly stroke  at the age of 48 while playing the organ. Being a musician is a dangerous profession. Remember Lully who died of blood poisoning after penetrating his own foot with his baton while conducting a march?

August 9, 2013

music of the week – Passacaglia from Georg Muffats collection Apparatus Musico-Organisticus

by ada

Georg Muffat was a fellow musician of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber at the Salzburg court of the Archbishops Max Gandolph Graf von Kuenburg and Johann Ernst Thun, between 1678-1690. He was lucky enough to study both the French and the Italian way of making music (oh those honest and uncomplicated times of the 17th century with only two main trends to compare and to believe in) and to meet the two leading and trend-creating personalities of the era: Jean-Baptiste Lully (yay to the French) and Arcangelo Corelli (hurrah for the Italian). In the preface of his collections Florilegium primum and Florilegium secundum, he gives very detailed instructions* on how to play “in the French manner”, like how to hold the bow, how to place the fingers, etc. He also claimed (himself) to be the very first musician to introduce the French style to the German-speaking part of Europe, which I’m not sure is a historically true statement, but he believed so. Whatever, he did a tremendous job in creating the very beginnings of the so-called “mixed style” which later evolved to the fully completed style of German Baroque.

* that’s what makes me so mad at all those ignorant musicians who claim that we can play Baroque music as we please, because we have no information about the performance practice of the pre-recording times. Because we do have. A lot. More than enough for a lifetime to study. Every time I hear modern pianists and symphonic orchestras play Baroque, I cringe from pain. It should not be that way. Musicians should be educated about music before letting them play that music. I’m a firm believer of thorough education.

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