I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Krieger: 12 trio sonatas

The obscure German composer, Johann Philipp Krieger, has been recorded in a series of 12 published trio sonatas (for 2 violins and b.c.) by Parnassi Musici. I purchased the CD after reading about the ensemble from the Folding Harpsichord Blog, where Jack reviews their recording of works by Domenico Gallo. Gallo's music is not available currently in Mp3 format, but the later recording of works by Krieger are. Despite being a prolific composer (not unlike Bach), so many works by this composer have been lost. The trio sonatas are written in a harmonic style not that foreign from Italian models, such as some of Corelli's unpublished works. In terms of style, the works are rather conservative, with much of the writing keeping the two violins together in passages of thirds, save for when one starts a short contrapuntal exchange. To my ears, the style of this composer isn't terribly far either from some of the "Baltic" works in MAK's recording musica baltica. The prevalent German style seems to tap, too, into the string ensemble works by Lübeck composers Buxtehude and Johann Pachelbel. In this comparison, Krieger is definitely following a more Italiante model, but at the same time, his writing is far less daring. Which leaves us with performance questions for the players: what style should we adopt? Parnassi musici have a nice string sound, but I found two faults with their playing that prevent this disc from being truly a standout. For one, they often adopt very strict tempi that appear to be super-aligned with a metronome. The Affekt of baroque music, to my ears, needs a more liberal interpretation when emphasizing the resolution of dissonance, when landing a delicious chord, or when you simply want to--to make the music more interesting. This isn't to say they can't--they can change tempo, but the only time it isn't an abrupt change is at the tail-end of a movement where a natural ritard is called for. The second criticism is related, but deals with their willingness to "lean" into some of the music, or to project more "feeling" into it. This is not to say they are emotionless players, but that Krieger's plainess in his writing would only be enhanced by some more colorful interpretation. To their credit, the ensemble takes on faster movements with aplomb and plenty of speed and technical ability. In conclusion, an interesting release of a very unknown composer's work, but one that likely hasn't risen to well-known heights on the merit of his compositional abilities. The ensemble shines more than the music, but they could have helped it along with a more daring big-picture view of these works caught somewhere between an older German and emerging Italian style.

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