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Hagen: Lute Sonatas / Schneiderman, Blumenstock, Skeen


Release Date: 08/25/2009 
Label:  Sono Luminus   Catalog #: 90907   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  John SchneidermanWilliam SkeenElizabeth Blumenstock
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

First-rate chamber music, eloquently performed by three fine musicians.

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HAGEN Lute and String Sonatas: in F; in E?; in C; in B?; in a; in A John Schneiderman (lt); Elizabeth Blumenstock (vn); William Skeen (vc) DORIAN 90907 (72:38)


Lute music from the 1760s? Yes indeed—Bernhard Joachim Hagen (also, but apparently incorrectly, known as Joachim Bernhard Hagen) was Read more one of the last German composers to write for the lute. He came along almost two generations after Silvius Leopold Weiss, who generally is regarded as forming the summit of German lute music. Hagen, who was born in 1720, was a court musician, first in Bayreuth and then in Ansbach, where he died in 1787. Little is known about him, and not much of his music survives. The six sonatas recorded here account for almost one-fifth of his extant music—all of it for lute, alone or with other instruments.


Hagen was trained both as a lutenist and as a violinist, and so it comes as no surprise that the lute and violin play equally important roles in these sonatas. (The cellist definitely brings up the rear.) All of them are in three movements. As with C. P. E. Bach, Hagen’s music comfortably straddles the Baroque and early Classical periods. His music’s structural and emotive formality is continuously challenged—albeit politely!—with the new freedoms that quickly were becoming popular. Hagen takes these innovations only so far, however, and these six sonatas are unfailingly tasteful and moderate—cheerful rather than giddy, and wistful rather than tragic. In other words, they go down easily, and if we like, we can close our eyes and pretend that we are at the court of Margravine Wilhelmine of Bayreuth doing courtly things, and turning our attentions toward and away from Hagen’s pleasing music according to our fancy.


There are a few discs of Hagen’s solo lute sonatas, including one from Naxos (of course), and it has received good reviews. This is the first I’ve encountered devoted to the sonatas for lute and strings. We’re in good hands here. Schneiderman’s instrument is not identified, but it has a bright sound and he plays it cleanly and with a lightness of touch appropriate for this galant music. Playing a 1660 Guarneri, Blumenstock matches Schneiderman both in tone and in style. Skeen’s support is steady, not stolid. Without playing dully, they keep the music’s courtly origins in mind. The engineering is warm and immediate but not intrusive.


FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle


The life and oeuvre of Bernhard Joachim Hagen is indicative of the state of the lute in Germany from the mid-18th century onwards. It was still popular among amateurs: the catalogues of the music publisher Breitkopf of the 1760s contain a large number of compositions for or with lute. But most professional players also played other instruments, since the instrument was in decline at least among court orchestras. Bernhard Joachim Hagen is just one example.
 
Not that much is known about Hagen. The main data come from an entry in the Historisch-biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler, published in 1790-92 by the German scholar Ernst Ludwig Gerber. Thanks to him the Christian names of Hagen are mostly given in the wrong order: Joachim Bernhard. But his Sonatina per il Liuto per B.J. Hagen shows that his proper name was Bernhard Joachim. He learned to play the lute and the violin at an early age, and may have been a pupil of his older brother Peter Albrecht, who had been a pupil of Geminiani in London and was an organist in Rotterdam in the Netherlands from 1731 until his death in 1777.
 
Bernhard Joachim's first position was at the court of Bayreuth where he was appointed, not as a lutenist, but as a violinist. Even so, this was one of the few courts where the lute was still in demand. That was mainly due to Margravine Wilhelmine, the younger sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia, who married Frederick who was to become Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth in 1735. Wilhelmine played the harpsichord and developed a passion for the lute. When she heard Silvius Leopold Weiss play in 1728 it made a great impression on her. At the time very little was going on when she arrived in Bayreuth. She immediately appointed architects to build a palace, and in 1748 a new opera house was opened which was one of the largest in Europe.
 
She also attracted musicians in order to establish a court orchestra. By 1738 the orchestra consisted of 17 musicians, among them the brothers Jakob Friedrich and Johann Stephan Kleinknecht, both flautists, the violinist Johann Daniel Lenthardt and the lutist Adam Falckenhagen. The Kapellmeister was Johann Pfeiffer, who was appointed in 1734. In 1737 Hagen joined the court orchestra as violinist. In this capacity he must have been quite skilled, as he regularly acted as a substitute for Pfeiffer. It seems he never acted as lutenist at the court: when Falckenhagen died in 1754 he was not succeeded by Hagen, but by Paul Charles Durant about whom hardly anything is known.
 
In 1758 Wilhelmine died at the age of 49. The opera house was sold, and musical activities were greatly diminished. The orchestra wasn't disbanded, though: when Pfeiffer died in 1761 Jakob Friedrich Kleinknecht succeeded him as Kapellmeister. But when in 1763 the Margrave died without an heir the House of Brandenburg-Bayreuth merged with the House of Brandenburg-Ansbach. The court moved to Ansbach in 1769, and here Hagen remained active as violinist until his death.
 
Hagen's whole oeuvre centres around the lute, and is preserved in one source, a collection of manuscripts which is now in the Augsburg State Library. These comprise twelve lute sonatas, two lute concertos, a duo for two lutes, a duo for lute and violin, a number of arrangements for the lute of pieces by other composers, and the six trios recorded here. They are all in three movements, in the order fast-slow-fast. The two treble parts are more or less independent. Motifs in one are often imitated in the other. There are also passages in which the treble instruments play in parallel motion. The cello delivers the harmonic support. The bass part of the Sonata in B flat is missing, and has been reconstructed by William Skeen.
 
These trios are examples of the galant style, and are written for entertainment. That doesn't mean they are mere easy-listening. They are very well written, and the two melody parts reflect the skills of Hagen on both instruments. Notable is the fact that the violin is played with a mute with a view to a satisfying balance between the two treble instruments. The Sonata in A, with the title 'Pastorella', is the most remarkable. Here the violin is required to play scordatura, which means that it is played in a different tuning. In the second movement the lute plays glissandi, a technique not unknown to the baroque era, but regularly used only since the 19th century.
 
Bernhard Joachim Hagen may not be the most famous composer of music for lute in music history but he certainly deserves the attention given by John Schneiderman, Elizabeth Blumenstock and William Skeen. They deliver very fine performances, technically immaculate, with excellent ensemble. Several movements give the lutenist opportunities to play a cadenza, and John Schneiderman uses them well. The recording has just the right intimacy which gives the listener the impression of being very close to the players, and sharing their obvious enjoyment of the music. The booklet contains extended information about the composer and the music, which I have gratefully used for this review.
 
Lute aficionados are not the only audience for this disc. This is first-rate chamber music, eloquently performed by these three fine musicians. Not to be missed.

-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Sonata in F major: Allegro by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  John Schneiderman (Lute), William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 4 Minutes 41 Secs. 
2. Sonata in F major: Andante by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), John Schneiderman (Lute), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 5 Minutes 30 Secs. 
3. Sonata in F major: Minuetto & Trio by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 3 Minutes 46 Secs. 
4. Sonata in E flat major: Allegro by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 5 Minutes 8 Secs. 
5. Sonata in E flat major: Andantino by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs. 
6. Sonata in E flat major: Allegretto ma Gratioso by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 3 Minutes 17 Secs. 
7. Sonata in C major: Allegro by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 3 Minutes 30 Secs. 
8. Sonata in C major: Molto andante by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 3 Minutes 19 Secs. 
9. Sonata in C major: Minuetto & Trio by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 3 Minutes 18 Secs. 
10. Sonata in B-flat major: Allegro by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 3 Minutes 11 Secs. 
11. Sonata in B-flat major: Largo by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 4 Minutes 16 Secs. 
12. Sonata in B-flat major: Allegro moderato by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 2 Minutes 50 Secs. 
13. Sonata in A minor: Andante by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 5 Minutes 38 Secs. 
14. Sonata in A minor: Largo by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 3 Minutes 42 Secs. 
15. Sonata in A minor: Vivace by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  William Skeen (Cello), Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 3 Minutes 15 Secs. 
16. Sonata in A major: Pastorella: Allegro, piu moderato, Allegro by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), John Schneiderman (Lute), William Skeen (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 4 Minutes 58 Secs. 
17. Sonata in A major: Pastorella: Allegro by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), William Skeen (Cello), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 4 Minutes 9 Secs. 
18. Sonata in A major: Pastorella: Amoroso by Joachim Bernhard Hagen
Performer:  Elizabeth Blumenstock (Violin), William Skeen (Cello), John Schneiderman (Lute)
Period: Baroque 
Length: 4 Minutes 8 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Lute Sonata in F major: I. Allegro
Lute Sonata in F major: II. Andante
Lute Sonata in F major: III. Minuetto - Trio
Lute Sonata in E flat major: I. Allegro
Lute Sonata in E flat major: II. Andantino
Lute Sonata in E flat major: III. Allegretto ma gratioso
Lute Sonata in C major: I. Allegro
Lute Sonata in C major: II. Molto andante
Lute Sonata in C major: III. Minuetto - Trio
Lute Sonata in B flat major: I. Allegro
Lute Sonata in B flat major: II. Largo
Lute Sonata in B flat major: III. Allegro moderato
Lute Sonata in A minor: I. Andante
Lute Sonata in A minor: II. Largo
Lute Sonata in A minor: III. Vivace
Lute Sonata in A major, "Pastorella": I. Allegro piu moderato - Allegro
Lute Sonata in A major, "Pastorella": II. Allegro
Lute Sonata in A major, "Pastorella": III. Amoroso

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