Sonaten aus Dresden by Musica Antiqua, Köln, (p) 2001 Challenge Classics In the new millennium, it seemed that MAK couldn't find the support for all it wanted to do with DG Archiv. We may very well never know the details (unless you're Goebel's next-door neighbor!). But they recorded several records for the Challenge Classics label, including one by Gluck and this one of sonatas for Dresden. Unfortunately, I purchased this one online and do not have access to liner notes. The music reminds me, at heart, of that found on their Musica Baltica album recorded for DG Archiv. Perhaps a few years later historically, but these are string sonatas written in an inventive style, without too much dominance from one particular instrument. We might therefore call them "string sontatas" instead of "violin," because while violins dominate the top texture, the voices here typically don't get too complex in number. Top, bass, and one or more may add harmony. Composers represented are not your typical household names, save for the last, a 4:46 sonata by Johann Joseph Fux. Ziani? Fruchheim, Theime? Yeah, me neither. These are exactly those "esoteric sonatas" Goebel referred to in his recording of music by Meister. Goebel's fixation on Dresden is a well-known one, and if you were looking for a major city that had a strong musical tradition in your native Germany, why not? Dresden was as ripe as any. MAK really gained the attention of the musical world with their pristine recording of Heinichen. Not only were they noted for their playing, but, who on earth was this mystery composer? I remember a press release at the time calling those colorful concertos the "Newly Discovered Brandenburgs!" Maybe not, on repeated listen, but I found reading about Dresden and its place in musical history fascinating. These pieces are dense, with some real focus on counterpoint. It's simple when it happens, but the strings can all get a little intense in their collective playing. The Sonatella in A major by Fruchheim is composed in what we might call today mini-movements; but we know as the baroque sonata developed, these contrasting sections between a piece would later evolve into real, distinct movements. In several sections, MAK as chamber ensemble saws away with such intensity, bringing to mind the string sonatas of a Schmelzer, a Biber (think of his Mensa Sonora), or even Muffat. Yet, the texture rarely breaks from the unison sound, without a lovely solo violin breaking away to sing on top of the continuo. Of course, this might have been employed, but it wasn't in MAK's plan. That intense ensemble sound is also reminiscent of the sound MAK acquired in their Veracini years (right after the Heinichen chapter). The sonata by Ziani in D minor too showcases the string sound of MAK, signature really, since the violinists are using some of Goebel's prized violins (among them, one by Rogeri and another from Jacobus Stainer). This work, like many on the recording, could be a solo sonata for violin with continuo. Yet in this example, the opening section breaks apart into multiple parts after an intense introduction. I'm thankful the composer decided to vary the texture to solo instruments, which makes perfect sense when a multi-part counterpoint unfolds. Compared to the counterpoint by Bach, this is still early enough that it sounds almost academic. But it's the style, really, that these composers were conforming to. I wonder what the function of this music was? They certainly could be imagined as "filler" in a religious service, perhaps, since it isn't very festive or dance like. It may also have been suitable for private entertainment. I could imagine hearing this music in a large acoustic, due to the lack of virtuosity (where in a large space it would have been lost), and where the sound could easily be augmented by adding extra players. Goebel went too far, I think, when he recorded Heinichen's vocal music. His CD of the Passionsmusik is not a favorite. Yet, in hindsight, he put more of this composer's music on record for history books. These composers, many unknown to us, are not new Schmelzers, or peers of say, Leclair. Each sonata taken alone, it's a departure into another sound world that we've lost. They're very well performed. They have a rustic quality which MAK meets mostly with the raw sound of period strings. The sonatas employ a variety of stringed instruments, too, including continuo with archlute, and top strings including violins, viole da braccio, and violino piccolo. The Fux sonata even calls for orchestration with bassoon. MAK fills the order. Yet, they are not golden discoveries. The harmonic progressions simple, these sonatas add a tasty repose between a diet of later, more skillfully wrought music, by the likes of Biber, Handel, Telemann, or Bach. And my favorite work on the recording is by Mr. Fux, a rondo that employs a miniature violin, riding the texture on top, with solos. The un-named violinst (perhaps Florian Deuter?) plays well without a touch of vibrato, but not in a way than is more virtuosic than the rest of the collection.