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.

von Radolt: Viennese Lute Concertos

Radolt letzbor One thing I admire about groups like Ars Antiqua Austria and the record companies that publish their recordings (in this case, Challenge Classics) is the exploration (and dissemination) of new material. I should of course recognize the irony in such a statement, for this music by Wenzel Ludwig Edler von Radolt isn't really new is it? But it is new to the canon of western music. And I have little doubt it would be new to you. "Concerto" is a misnomer here, these are really collections of pieces, or suites. The first is a "Concerto in E Minor" for lute with strings; the next is an "Aria" in C. Concertos in F, G, and C-minor also follow, each with dances such as courentes, bourées, gavottes, and menuettes. Also to be found is a Toccata in F and a Symponia in g. The use of French may be used because the composer wanted to gain the attention of an important French lutenist of the time. Radolt was born in 1667 and the collection from which these pieces come was published in 1701. Hubert Hoffmann, one of the lutenists in the recording, brought the music to the ensemble, after a lot of detective work. It's unusual music, alone for the scoring. Up to three lutes are employed, and to my ears, the string ensemble takes on an equal weight to the lutes. The musical language often goes dark, with harmonies that seem similar to those we might hear in, say, Biber or Muffat? But that's where the similarities end… come to think of it, Corelli's op. 5 was published around the same time, and his "Italian" harmonic language had already been established, complete with formulaic patterns that were eaten-up by other admiring composers. This music, however, is far more original in it's concept. It also calls to the sound world of Weiss, but by the time you reach the final work, the nine movements kind of arrest your hope of anything quite so playful as Weiss' music has the capacity to be… It's the darkness, combined with the tuning used, according to Letzbor, that earned this music some of the saddest he knows. No one wants a CD full of tears. So, don't fret, this recording isn't that. But whether we attribute the instrumentation, the mode, or the tuning employed by the musicians in this recording, the mood often takes on a dark feeling. I like that no one piece goes on for too long, and that the arrangement of pieces juxtaposes the quick from the slower. There's a good stereo distribution between the instruments (violin left, gamba right, lutes somewhere in between). So where does that leave us? The music doesn't sound to me to be particularly difficult, in a technical sense. But technical facility and the aesthetic choices of performance all seem to be in good order. Is there profundity in this music? I am not sure I can really say that von Radolt was an iconoclast, or innovator. His style remains consistent for me across the recording. This is music, I feel, that was for the musicians. I could imagine 6 people meeting together in a small chamber, each with their part books, picking a few pieces, and playing in consort. It makes you wonder why it was written, if not for specific performers. According to the liner notes, however, this "lute concerto" was a genre unique to Radolt's area. But it doesn't subvert my idea about it's function; the simplicity of the music would allow the perfumers to add their own mark. I therefore conclude that the most fun to be had would have been with the performers themselves. Any audience would likely have been small; perhaps an aristocrat and his consort. It might also have functioned as banquet music. I would have enjoyed a little more improvisation on the part of Letzbor, Ars Antiqua's violinist and conductor. And that's where it's left for us: how does it do as a sonorous curtain of sound? It would make for enjoyable luncheon music. It's of the nature that you may not pay special attention to it at all times, but instead notice a theme, tap your foot to a dance, or else just momentarily enjoy the texture of those lutes. It's not deep music. But you may just enjoy its novelty and rarity! ℗ 2008 Challenge Classics. 78 minutes.

Biber's Mystery Sonatas

Bach's Trio Sonata BWV 527