Sonata à tre violini

Composer: Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (b. 1620 - d. 1680)
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Composer: Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (b. 1620 - d. 1680)

Performance date: 01/07/2014

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1677

Duration: 00:07:52

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTE

Instrumentation Category:Small Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: 3vn, va, vc, db, lu, hpd

Artists: Concerto Copenhagen (Peter Spissky, Fredrik From, Antina Hugosson [violins], Torbjörn Köhl [viola], Kate Hearne [cello], Mattias Frostenson [bass], Fredrik Bock [archlute, guitar], Lars-Ulrik Mortensen [harpsichord, director]) - [baroque ensemble]

Very little is known about Schmelzer’s early
life, but in 1630 he entered the Habsburg court in Vienna, eventually becoming
the only non-Italian to hold the post of Kapellmeister
there over a period of almost 100 years. He was to remain at the court for the
rest of his life, gaining a reputation as a prominent composer as well as a
virtuoso violinist. Schmelzer was hugely influential in the development of
violin technique and instrumental music in Austria in the 17th century. There
is no doubt that he was influenced by the Italian composers who were
responsible for introducing solo violin repertoire to northern climes, such as
Marini, Fontana and Uccellini. Schmelzer in turn influenced the later German
and Austrian composers, most notably one of his students, Biber. Schmelzer’s
sonata for three violins follows a trend started by his Italian colleagues, and
in his work for this setting Schmelzer succeeds in creating something sublime.
The opening melody doesn’t grow tiresome despite its many repetitions, and
Schmelzer uses thematic repetition many times in the different sections of this
through-composed work. Sometimes they are voiced as a simple solo for each
violin in turn, sometimes in overlaying fugal entries, creating rich
contrapuntal interaction between the instruments. Traces of the Italian canzona
style show up in dance-like sections, which are juxtaposed against sudden
harmonic changes and chromaticism, bringing an element of drama to this
multifaceted work.