Pieter Dirksen

Harpsichordist - Musicologist - Organist

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Twelve Trio Sonatas for Two Violins, Viola da Gamba and Continuo

Johannes Schenck La Suave Melodia
Rachael Beesley - violin
Cassandra Luckhardt - viola da gamba
Regina Albanez - theorbo
Pieter Dirksen - harpsichord & organ

with Franc Polman - violin

Etcetera KTC 1356 (May 2007)


[1] Sonata Prima in D major - 5:10
[2] Sonata Secunda in B-flat major - 4:35
[3] Sonata Terza in G minor - 11:13
[4] Sonata Quarta in D minor - 7:31
[5] Sonata Quinta in C minor - 5:47
[6] Sonata Sexta in E major - 3:56
[7] Sonata Settima in F major - 5:25
[8] Sonata Ottava in C major - 9:29
[9] Sonata Nona in A major - 5:56
[10] Sonata Decima in B minor - 5:27
[11] Sonata Undecima in A minor - 5:31
[12] Sonata Duodecima in D minor - 9:01

total timing: 79:03 [!]

The booklet contains an essay in English, French, German and Dutch, from which here follows an excerpt:

The Amsterdam musician Johannes Schenck (1660-c.1720) published an impressive array of works, dating from 1687 onwards. With ten opus numbers to his name, Schenck was the by far most widely published of seventeenth-century Dutch composers. Schenck enjoyed a considerable reputation as a virtuoso gamba player. `Personne n'a touché a cet instrument avec plu de delicatesse que Lui' (`No one has ever played this instrument more delicately than he'), a contemporary wrote. Around 1696, Schenck’s fame took him to Düsseldorf, where he accepted an appointment to the court of Elector Johann Wilhelm II, a great lover music who himself played the gamba too. Johannes Schenck’s complete oeuvre, including the later works composed in Dusseldorf, was originally published in Amsterdam. Most of the compositions were issued by the renowned publisher Estienne Roger; three of them are sacred vocal works set to Dutch texts. It should come as no surprise that music for solo gamba plays a central role in Schenck’s output. Two collections, however, are dedicated to the violin: the Suonate a violino e violone o cimbalo Opus 7 (1699), and Il Giardino armonico armonico consistente in diverse sonate a due violini, viola di gamba e basso continuo Opus 3 (1691). Until recently it was believed that the only extant copy of the latter opus was permanently lost during the Second World War, but this sole surviving example was recently located by the undersigned. It forms part of the collection of the Berlin Sing-Akademie which was retrieved some years ago in Kiev and returned to Berlin.

Il Giardino Armonico reveals itself as extraordinary music, arguably the best of Schenck’s works. These twelve sonatas demonstrate an astonishing variety of affects through which the composer displays a noteworthy sensitivity for the different keys, lending each sonata its own particular character. Nowhere else in Schenck’s works is the influence of Italian instrumental music so obvious; the clearest influence is the trio sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli. The latter’s Opus 1 of 1681 became soon known in Northern Europe as well (a partial reprint appeared in Amsterdam as early as 1685) and is the clear forerunner of the Giardino armonico. Schenck’s trio sonatas can be seen as one of the first and also one of the most important ‘Corellian’ collections north of the Alps but also displays its own individual characteristics. One half of the sonatas (nos. 1, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11) are composed in the ‘Sonata da chiesa’ manner with the same structure as Corelli’s first opus: four-movement works of the slow-fast-slow-fast model, with the first two movements in duple meter and the last two in triple meter. The fast movements are fugal and motivically related. Schenck’s fugal themes are clearly Italianate, but nevertheless distinctive, and are usually longer than those of Corelli. The second slow movement is usually shorter than the first and functions as a bridge between the two fast movements.

The four-part ‘Sonata da chiesa’ model still forms the basis of three more sonatas, nos. 3, 4 and 12, but is altered here in different ways, notably by the addition of solo sections. The three remaining sonatas, nos. 2, 5 and 8, break away completely from this structure. The three-movement Sonata Secunda is a light-hearted piece with a decidedly rustic flavour. In utter contrast to this stands the "tragic" Sonata Quinta, while the Sonata ottava, which consists of a patchwork of tempo changes, must be considered a ‘Battaglia’ with a hidden agenda.

Pieter Dirksen, 2006

order at info@pieterdirksen.nl (€ 20,- + postage and packing)

From the Reviews:

" ... this recording by La Suave Melodia is a fine testament to the composer's understanding of the violin's technical and expressive capabilities. The ensemble's rich sound exploits the many bittersweet harmonic progressions in slow movements, bringing out both drama and emotional rhetoric with great panache. The two violins blend beautifully, and the continuo ... is sensitive and supportive."
(Early Music)

"Apart from the tremendous service of simply rediscovering these works, La Suave Melodia goes one step further and provides listeners with an immaculate, deeply satisfying performance of the 12 trio sonatas. The recorded sound is wonderfully clean and simple and the balance between the instruments allows the violins to easily carry the melody throughout while still letting listeners enjoy the intricate harmonies and rhythmically varied accompanimental patterns in the rest of the ensemble. Intonation, articulation, and ornamentation match flawlessly from the first note of the CD to the last. Fans of early music have found a treasure not only in the works of Johannes Schenck, but in the sensitive, informed performances of La Suave Melodia."

"La Suave Melodia bringt eine wirklich hervorragende Interpretation, die die Qualitäten dieser Sonaten voll ans Tageslicht bringt. ... eine der besten Neuerscheinungen des Jahres 2007."
(Toccata - Alte Musik Aktuell)

"These are colourful, energetic and technically immaculate performances of works which are very important additions to the repertoire. I am sure that this very attractive disc will give you as much pleasure as it has given me."
(MusicWeb International)

"La Suave Melodia réalise ici un travail séduisant et élégant."
(Le Monde de la Musique - estimation: **** )

" ... una magnífica grabación ... La interpretación que recibe por parte de La Suave Melodia, grupo holandés relativamente joven, pero experimentado, es, sencillamente, modélica en su academicismo: una interpretación sensible, contenida y rica en matices en la que los excelentes violines solistas se apoyan en un bajo continuo ligero y sin estridencias, pero muy efectivo. Un disco, pues, que por programa e interpretación es altamente recomendable."

"Zijn twaalf triosonates op.3, onlangs herontdekt, krijgen prima vertolkingen van het Ensemble La Suave Melodia, waarbij goed naar voren komt hoe rijk geschakeerd de variatie aan vormmodellen was die Schenck hanteerde."
(de Volkskrant - waardering: **** )

"Schencks muziek, sterk beïnvloed door Corelli en andere Italianen, is in harmonisch opzicht van een weelderige soort. Van bovenmodale kwaliteit is ook de expressieve uitvoering door Dirksen en consorten."
(de Telegraaf)