Organ & Keyboard Music,
Imperial Court Chapel, Vienna, 1500-1700:
ed. Siegbert Rampe
Review by John Collins

Organ and Keyboard Music of the Imperial Court Chapel Vienna, 1500-1700.
Collection of first editions edited by Siegbert Rampe
Bärenreiter BA9214.

In this volume, a companion to that devoted to the Salzburg Court, the indefatigable Siegbert Rampe has produced another fascinating anthology, including not only pieces by composers who will be known from previous editions but also many interesting works that are published here for the first time. It opens with two short intabulations, the first, In pace in Idipsum, being a chanson by Josquin set here by Heinrich Isaac, the second, Expecta ung pauca, being a setting by Johannes Buchner of an unknown original. The following two compositions by Thomas Bodenstein, a contrapuntal Conzon (sic) that does not have the expected dactylic rhythm in the subject, and a short Ballet, represent all that is known by this composer. The extremely lengthy Fantasia on the Ninth Tone by Jacob Hassler, younger brother of the much better known Hans Leo, is presented here for the first time in the original notation, its 460 bars of densely wrought contrapuntal ingenuity representing a high point of this lofty style.

Much simpler in style is the imitative Conzon in C, the sole surving keyboard work by Christoph Strauss. The following seven Conzons by Giovanni Valentine (teacher of Johann Kaspar Kerll) are considerably more substantial; five of them are in six voices, the only such examples before J.S.Bach’s Ricercar, although they have pedal parts indicated they can be played manualiter. The Toccata on the 2nd Tone by Froberger is a newly discovered work in a Hamburg MS and contains his only writing for pedals, long points in the manner of his teacher Frescobaldi’s two such published Toccatas in his second book - it may well be Froberger’s earliest surviving composition. The writing calls for considerable dexterity and much care will need to be exercised in the articulation and phrasing for a successfully idiomatic performance. The following Toccata, attributed to Carlo Simonelli in The Ladys Entertainment, published in London in 1708, is an alternative shortened reading of a piece attributed elsewhere to Froberger; Rampe argues convincingly for it to be included as an original composition by this little known composer.

Although the majority of these pieces can be played successfully on any keyboard instrument manualiter, it is in the remaining pieces in the anthology, five partitas, that the clavichord would have been the preferred instrument, although performance on a small chamber organ cannot be excluded. The first three by Johann Schmelzer, the virtuoso violinist, are probably intabulations of unknown ensemble works, and contain the traditional dance movements with a few extra movements; of interest is the Gigue in the first Partita written in C time but with a strongly dotted rhythm. The first Partita by Ferdinand Tobias Richter, a joint dedicatee of Pachelbel’s Hexachordum Apollinis of 1699, opens with a flamboyant Toccatina, mixing repeated chords with scalar passagework and closes with a contrapuntally conceived Gigue that requires much care; the second Partita opens with a two-part Entrée followed by the traditional dances plus a Minue and Bourrée. These pieces are particularly tuneful and it will be worthwhile experimenting with appropriate registration, although stretches of a tenth in several movements in the Schmelzer show that the pieces were conceived for a short-octave keyboard.

Siegbert Rampe provides a critical commentary on the sources used and a most informative introduction covering the background to the composers and pieces. Facsimiles of a few pages make interesting reading. This volume, including as it does so many new pieces that can be used in recitals, is highly recommended and will provide sufficient challenges even for players experienced in this period.

© John Collins, Jul 2011

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