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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Freiburger BarockConsort: Schmelzer, Baroque World Theatre

When a group such as the Freiburger BarockConsort performs music from the 17th century, you hear the sound of the music as it would have been heard in a typical performance of the period. This they do on a new album covering the music of Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, an Austrian composer very active at the Habsburg court. His sonatas and dance suites became well known throughout Central Europe. Freiberger's BarockConsort gives us an insightful/delightful earful of a good selection of his instrumental works on Baroque World Theatre (Harmonia Mundi 902087).

The presence of lute, harpshichord and viola da gamba, and what sound like period instruments and bows in the violins and etc., transforms the usual modern-day performance into something much sweeter and more resonant. The imitative echoing of motives, the continuo in its original timbral richness and the general string sound bring out the parts. The blend of instruments is distinguished by a greater variety of sound colors than we might hear today and so each part stands out more strikingly. And in the process Schmelzer's music becomes quite comprehensible and rather lovely indeed. And you can hear the influence he had on Biber, for example, in the elaborate and characteristic variations around repeating figured bass patterns. This was something Biber quite apparently studied closely.

It's a very attractive performance of works well worth hearing and enjoying. Any fan of early music will love this. Those who may not have heard music of the early baroque performed in the period style with period instruments are in for a good surprise. Some of the dances really get rolling as well!

The CD is available April 10th, but you can preorder it at Amazon. Copy this URL into your browser window to go directly to the appropriate page:

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