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.

Fux Partite à 3

Ars Antiqua Austria have recorded Johann Joseph Fux's Partite for strings.

Letzbor and friends record J. J. Fux

Letzbor and friends record J. J. Fux

Likely the best comparison of this music, at least in terms of the titles, are Pachelbel's partite. Loosely, these are multi-movement suites of pieces with various dance titles to denote each movement, centered around a similar key. Of course, the à 3 designation implies writing in three parts (2 trebles with bass), but despite the implication of a trio-sonata, I'd wager to say Fux wasn't thinking of this particular form. At times the upper voices play in unison, and there other times when the three voices seem to each take on their own independence. As an example, the energetic ninth track, a Passacaglia in G minor pits the two upper violins against the bass in a trio-like fashion, but the bass voice doesn't play the same sequence of notes the whole time.

Fux is also fond of using counterpoint in his writing; either between the two upper voices, or all three. The overture in D (track 15) takes up counterpoint with the upper voices against the bass. I think the counterpoint is all pretty "light," in that it is easy to hear and doesn't approach the intellectual challenges, of say, a Bach contrapunctus.

It's a shame that Fux's movements are all very short; track lengths range from between less than a minute to a few tracks at most 3 or 4 minutes.

The playing by in large is full of appropriate energy and vigor, as we sometimes get from Ars Antiqua Austria under Gunar Letzbor. He's joined by former MAK-alumnus Ilia Korol on violin. I have found sometimes Letzbor will exaggerate the differences among the slow and fast movements, and I have found his Pandolfi recordings the most challenging in this regard, not only for the contrasts in tempo, but also the volume used on the recording to exaggerate the dynamic range.

This recording does better with all of that, however they sometimes push their sound hard and it gets "rough." I am not sure this is totally inappropriate; several motifs and descriptive titles (such as Les Cambattans) suggest a rustic energy. The recording, does, suffer from a lack of clarity from the recording, with an appopriate amount of "air" and "liveness" around the instruments, but without enough detail as I wager the microphones could have been closer.

Interesting chromatic themes come into play in the longest track (#25) a Capriccio followed by other sections varying in tempo. It's in expressive writing like this that I felt the group might have explored phrasing that better matched human singing. There's an evenness to the bow pressure that gives such evenness to each note that I long to hear the line phrased differently.

These are small criticisms, however; the partitas on this album are interesting enough and come in short "servings" to provide the baroque enthusiast a chance to explore likely a new sound world with music that avoids the patterns and performance styles of more mainstream baroque composers.

Two Recent Jarrett Releases on ECM

Albinoni Violin Sonatas