|Saturday 17th November at 7pm|
Glebe Music Festival
In conjunction with The Glebe Society Inc
Saturday 17th November at 7pm
While residing at Rheinsberg Palace in the Ruppin forest and lake area northwest of Berlin in the 1730s, Frederick II, crown prince of Prussia retained a small company of eminent musicians for his recreation. Brothers Carl Heinrich Graun (singer and opera composer) and Johann Gottlieb Graun (a leading German violinist), as well as respected keyboardist Christoph Schaffrath and double bassist Johann Gottlieb Janitsch were among the retinue subsequently engaged in the royal court orchestra when Frederick acceded to the throne in 1740. The King was an accomplished flautist, composer and noted patron of the arts, who cultivated musical pursuits to an exceptional degree during his reign.
Frederick the Great employed the famous flautist and theorist Johann Joachim Quantz as his flute tutor. Quantz wrote over 300 flute concertos and 200 other pieces for the instrument. In the concerts which took place most evenings, Frederick primarily performed his own compositions as well as pieces by his teacher. Quantz co-ordinated the private concerts which took place at the royal palace of Sanssouci in Potsdam. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was another eminent member of the musical establishment, sharing the role of court harpsichordist with Christoph Schaffrath (lesser-known nowadays, but along with his peers, well regarded in his lifetime). Their musical approach is identifiably galant, a predominantly melodious idiom with functional, minimalist bass lines.
As well as performing in the court orchestra, Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708–c. 1763) composed music for the annual masked balls and several small-scale instrumental pieces. He was particularly celebrated for a quantity of novel Quadro Sonatas which reveal impressive expertise in the art of intricate counterpoint. Such pieces achieved an enduring popularity - the composer J W Hertel (in 1784) praised Janitsch’s skill as a contapuntalist whose quartets remained the best example of the genre. Each part maintains an independence in accordance with Quantz’s theory that one should not be able to determine which of the voices predominates at any given time. These were performed at intimate musical gatherings - Freitags-Akademien - established by Janitsch in 1738, and held on Friday afternoons at his residence in Berlin. Janitsch most likely played on a string bass, or used the chamber organ installed in his apartments for this acclaimed weekly concert series.
Of his forty Quadro Sonatas (or Sonatas da Camera), Austral Harmony perform three which are striking for their unconventional combination of instruments. Janitsch writes in a preface (1759) “This type of work has not often appeared in the past. The selection of their instrumentation is such that no sonata will be similar to another”. Such scorings for unusual and diversified combinations of instruments unveil a fascinating variety of tonal colour. Predictably, the flute is given prominence, while the oboe and oboe d’amore are nicely favoured in his chamber music. The oboist Johann Christian Jacobi was associated with these musical academies - the music critic and theorist Friedrich Marpurg mentions “working on these pieces with others in the group greatly improved Mr. Jacobi’s oboe technique; this became for him a means of daily broadening his insight and taste and gaining strength as a player, earning him the acclamation of connoisseurs.” From 1768 Jacobi was in charge of the King’s military oboe band at Potsdam.
The three Quadros in our programme may be interpreted as friendly and informal conversation between the wind players, with their differing vocal timbres and dovetailing lines. Typically short phrases are imitated and shared in a fugal manner, and together with overlapping counter-subjects give the impression of animated discourse. Other facets which contribute to Janitsch’s idiosyncratic musical idiom include repetitions of a rhythmic motif, intricate use of triplets and dotted rhythms for a syncopated effect, and an expressive abundance of appoggiaturas. Many of these characteristics, including the three-movement (slow-fast-fast) “classical” layout most-liked by this Berlin circle, feature in the music of Schaffrath and the Graun brothers, and correlate with C P E Bach’s intimately expressive style.
Among the instrumentalist-composers taking part in Janitsch’s cultural venture was J G Graun (1702-1771), long-time leader of the court orchestra (which he brought to a high artistic standard), and excellent teacher whose notable pupils included Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, and Franz Benda who succeeded him as concertmaster. He produced a regular quantity of chamber music and concertos. Frederick the Great’s sister Anna Amalia commissioned several volumes of his compositions. In many instances his compositional style has proved indistinguishable to that of his younger brother Carl Heinrich Graun (1703/04–1759) - definite authorship as to which brother of certain trios (around 150 in total) remains inconclusive. Not only was C H Graun employed as Director of Music, he was a singer and composed a number of Italian operas. Commissioned in 1741 by Frederick the Great, the Court Opera (today’s Berlin State Opera) was inaugurated with a performance of C H Graun's Cesare e Cleopatra.
The ‘Graun’ Flute Sonata in C major and Trio in A major adhere to the fourmovement church sonata pattern; alternative instrumentation exists for both pieces. They exude charm and elegance as does the Oboe Sonata in D minor by Christoph Schaffrath (1709-1763), an exact contemporary of Janitsch, renowned keyboard player and distinguished member of the Berlin circle of musicians. He was praised as a harpsichordist ‘known to all’ and composer of beautiful and popular works which were often requested for performance at concert series. The harpsichord often assumes an obbligato role in his sonatas, concertos and chamber music. In 1744 Schaffrath was appointed to the prestigious position of Harpsichordist and Chamber Musician of Her Royal Highness Princess Amalie of Prussia. The melody and bass lines of the Oboe Sonata have a duet-like texture and work in close collaboration.
Located in C P E Bach’s Musicalisches Vielerley (Musical Miscellany) publication of 1770
are two sonatas for oboe and continuo by Carl Ludewig Matthes (1751 - ?),
‘cammermusico in Berlin’. These comprise the only surviving works by this celebrated
oboist who was chamber musician at the court of Margrave Friedrich Heinrich von
Schwedt, a noted patron of the arts. Matthes was born in Berlin and learned the oboe
from Carlo Besozzi in Dresden. He was said to perform slow movements "with taste,
sensitivity and pleasant tone, after the latest fashion". The oboe sonatas exist in several
manuscript copies, confirming their popularity, and both have been transcribed for flute.
The Sonata in C major is wonderfully melodious, and can perhaps be viewed as
extending into the more virtuosic ‘salon’ music of the later century.
Dedicated to the promotion of Historically Inspired Performance, Austral Harmony has garnered recognition for scholarly research, supreme musicianship and creatively designed programmes comprising well-known masterpieces as well as forgotten repertoire. They have performed by invitation at the New England Bach Festival, Melba Hall, St James’ Church Sydney, for the Australasian Double Reed Society National Conferences, Byron Music Society, Early Music Society Queensland and Australian Bach Society. The group has recorded on the prestigious Chandos Records label to favourable acclaim.
With a desire to involve and enrich regional communities, they present events in collaboration with local music centres, societies and conservatoires (Brisbane, Canberra, Armidale, Melbourne, the Adelaide Hills, rural Victoria and coastal NSW), & host an annnual Bach Festival featuring artists of international standing, in support of an early music scholarship. Educational workshops and lecture/demonstrations are devoted to fostering the younger generation of musicians, and to the perpetuation and appreciation of past traditions in the arena of classical music. - an extraordinary recital - Australian Bach Society
Jessica Lee - transverse flute
Jane Downer - baroque oboe, oboe d’amore
Peter Maddigan - baroque oboe, oboe d’amore
Nathan Cox - harpsichord