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.

Il Giardino del piacere: Letzte Aufnahme

Available now from a WDR Cologne production on Berlin Classics (formerly Challenge?) is some chamber music from Johann Friedrich Meister, from his collection entitled Il giardino del piacere. Wait, you've never heard of J.F. Meister? The collection, the author's only one of chamber music, was published in 1695. #alttext# And yes, friends, it's performed by Musica Antiqua, Köln, their last recording. (I'm still trying to get the DVD of them performing Die Kunst der Fuge from 2007, which I've found excepts of on YouTube, but seemingly is not available here in the U.S.) But I digress. I'm not sure what is the greater gem here, to find, post-mortem, a new album from Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln, or, the riches of these sonatas by J.F. Meister. First, is the music good? Oh, yes. It's serious music, in fact, but one that teases us with its richness, so well-played by this ensemble of some 35 years. To quote Meister Goebel:

Having initiated and decisively directed the work with and of Musica Antiqua Köln for over 35 years, I felt it my duty to rescue this “legacy” of the ensemble from the WDR archives and conclude with dignity the ensemble’s worldwide public career with just the kind of music with which it began: our first vinyl disc of 1976 featured sonatas by Schmelzer and Kerll; our first international distinction, the Edison, was awarded for “German Violin Music of the Seventeenth Century” – works from the Rost Anthology from the library of Sébastien de Brossard. The wheel comes full circle, finis coronat opus – a wish of mine! Yes, Meister's music is going to be new to you, but it's in the vein of Buxtehude's string sonatas, and by saying it's serious, it has less of an Italian feel (as the title might suggest it has). Instead, it has that formality of starting with a theme, then opening up with all the voices, and instead of following what we might expect, a type of Corellian formula or language, the formal structures are different. And the harmonic progressions are sometimes arresting. This was an interesting composer, who wasn't intent in just following the lead of others we may know. He did that, but he went beyond, I feel, to write music of genuine interest. And that's what Goebel is saying above - he's fine in ending the published record of his ensemble work with MAK, highlighting as obscure yet gifted a composer as Johann Schmelzer. The sound of MAK here is very close in style to what they did on DG Archiv with their Telemann Flute Quartets. It makes sense, because minus the flute/recorder and oboe players, the core team is all there. Léon Berben's harpsichord is especially ripe sounding, not unlike the character found in some of Pierre Hantaï's recordings on Ambrosie. The cello is sympathetic and warm, yet it's the two violins who sound so "in-concert" with another. I'm speaking of the instruments' tone, but also the style and approach from the players. This is a good recording, and I"m of course going to recommend you find it (either in CD or in an online format as I did). But there is also a little sadness in this music, so much of it in the minor mode. What's most convincing as sorrowful is this comment from Meister Goebel: After 2000, however, it became increasingly clear that Musica Antiqua was outdated; audience, press and promoters wanted garish operas, not esoteric sonatas by Pachelbel, let alone by Meister. Outdated? Never. MAK is a legend. Perhaps the world had had enough of esoteric sonatas, as Goebel says, but I for one will always support musician-scholars who want to unlock the sounds of the past. Perhaps I'm the odd one out, I'm a sucker for recordings like this, of so-called esoteric works. These are each little miniature creations, not so grandiose as an opera or a symphony. They're small enough for us to grasp, contemplate, and enjoy within the confines of modern life. This recording has given me great pleasure already, and there are several tracks that have only been read once by my hard drive. And as a bonus, it has reminded me of my two experiences in listening to MAK perform here in the U.S. The ultimate was sadly without Goebel, but the players assembled there that evening emulated well the signature MAK style. It matters not to me that this recording was done in 2004, and only released a few months ago. It is, as we might expect, another gem in the catalog. Detail Be thankful for the unexpected. This fine music of J.F. Meister even resembles the string sonatas by one Heinrich Biber in more than one place...

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