We have now included an option to change the language of the site for those that would like to view or type in another language. Men of all nations and all languages are welcome on The Independent Man.
Friday Night Organ: "The most eminent violinist in Europe" (at least in 1660).
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer ( 1620–1680) Schmelzer attained a high reputation in violin playing and violin composition which at the time was dominated by Italians; indeed, one traveler referred to him in 1660 as "nearly the most eminent violinist in all of Europe". Schmelzer's Sonatae unarum fidium of 1664 was the first collection of sonatas for violin and basso continuo to be published by a German-speaking composer. It contains the brilliant virtuosity, sectional structure, and lengthy ground-bass variations typical of the mid-Baroque violin sonata. Schmelzer was the foremost Austrian composer of instrumental music of his day, and had an important influence on the Austrian violinist and composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704), who is believed to have been one of Schmelzer's students.
Schmelzer was born in Scheibbs, Lower Austria. Nothing is known about his early years, and most of the surviving information about his background was recounted by the composer himself in his petition for ennoblement of 1673. He described his father as a soldier, but in another document, the 1645 marriage certificate of Schmelzer's sister Eva Rosina, he is listed as a baker. At any rate, it remains unclear where and from whom Schmelzer received primary music education. His activities before 1643 are similarly unknown–the composer is first mentioned in a document dated 28 June 1643, relating to his first marriage. He is referred to as a cornettist at St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna. The date of his arrival to Vienna is unknown, but he probably worked at the court chapel in the late 1630s, in the employ of Ferdinand II and, after 1637, Ferdinand III. Schmelzer's colleagues at the chapel included such distinguished composers as Johann Jakob Froberger, Giovanni Valentini, and Antonio Bertali.
Schmelzer was officially appointed court violinist in 1649. Our knowledge of his position, duties, and activities is incomplete. He apparently rose to prominence as a violin virtuoso, as well as a composer, and enjoyed a close relationship with Emperor Leopold I, who was a well-known patron of the arts and a composer himself. Schmelzer started publishing his music in 1659. He was appointed vice-Kapellmeister on 13 April 1671. On 14 June 1673, after the composer petitioned for ennoblement, the Emperor raised Schmelzer to the ranks of nobility; Schmelzer now added von Ehrenruef to his name. (In the same manner as Leopold had raised Biber). Eventually, after his predecessor Giovanni Felice Sances had died, Schmelzer became Kapellmeister, on 1 October 1679. Unfortunately, he fell victim of the plague early in 1680, and died in Prague, where the Viennese court moved in an attempt to evade the epidemic.
Here is the Sonatae unarum fidium - Sonata Quarta mentioned above.
And his Ciaccona in A major
I mentioned Pavel Josef Vejvanovský last week so here is some info. He was a Czech-Moravian composer and trumpeter of the Baroque period born in Hukvaldy Moravia 1633 and died in 1693. He received an education at the Jesuit university in Opava, where he also began composing. Moravia had been devastated during the Thirty Years War and much of it was in desperate need of rebuilding. The Habsburg authorities appointed the influential and ambitious Karl Liechtenstein-Castelcorno as Prince-Bishop of Olomouc who set about to rebuild much of the region. This included building himself a grand palace in Italian Renaissance style with elaborate gardens in the nearby town of Kromeriz and employing a large group of musicians drawn from throughout Europe to play at his court and churches. In the 1650s the job of running and directing this prestigious ensemble fell to Vejvanovsky, who was regularly singled out for praise by the Bishop.
As a composer his output is uneven, but in his later works he was able to master most typical idioms of the day. He seems to have struggled with imitative counterpoint and his most compelling pieces are characterized by charming folk idioms and virtuosic brass writing. He composed in a wide variety of genres ranging from large-scale Mass settings and music for special feast days to more intimate sonatas and suites. In addition to his musical responsibilities, he also maintained the Bishop's music library and was the primary copyist of the collection, with his hand appearing in hundreds of manuscripts. His own compositions circulated throughout central Europe, appearing in other Czech collections as well as in Germany and Austria. He seems to have made at least one visit to Austria with the purpose of copying and collecting music and it is largely thanks to Vejvanovsky that so much central-European music from the time is preserved in what is widely regarded as one of the most important collections of late seventeenth century music on the Continent.
Vejvanovsky must have been one of the greatest trumpet virtuosos of the age and his numerous compositions attest to his virtuosity. One of his more remarkable talents was the ability to play certain chromatic passages on the trumpet, which is not normally possible on the largely diatonic natural trumpet. Under Vejvanovsky's direction the Bishop's ensemble saw its heyday. Other musicians at court included Philipp Jakob Rittler, Heinrich Biber, and Gottfried Finger, the latter two employing certain characteristics of Vejvanovsky's trumpet writing in their own compositions.
Here is his Serenada for four trumpets, bassoon, timpani, strings and continuo: (Its hard to believe this is not English—it sounds soooooo Purcell).
And his Missa Florida
His best known work is the Trumpet Sonata #4
Next week we take up the Italians again, Torelli, Locatelli and Corelli. SHEEZ sounds like an Italian Law firm! ANYONE who is Italian and their name DOESN’t END in “lli” please raise your hand….oh yeah Tartini, Scarlatti, and Albinoni GOT IT!)
The violin pieces with the organ accompaniment are nice both to listen to and to show the organ in the role of an accompanying instrument. I wasn't familiar with music that did this so this week's offering has once again expanded my musical experience. Thanks again, for doing this.