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Fux: Overtures / Dombrecht, Il Fondamento

Release Date: 07/27/2004 
Label:  Passacaille   Catalog #: 905   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Joseph Fux
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Like Leopold Mozart, Johann Joseph Fux (c. 1660–1741?) is primarily remembered today not for his music but for a musical treatise. For the elder Mozart, it was his violin method that long outlived him and his reputation as a composer. For Fux, it was Gradus ad parnassam, an essay on the art of constructing counterpoint. This monumental work exerted an incalculable influence upon composers well into the 19th century. From his publication, we learn that Fux considered Palestrina the greatest master of the contrapuntal art; it was Fux’s work in counterpoint and his enormous quantity of sacred music that earned him the nickname “The Austrian Palestrina.”

In his Musicalisches Lexikon of 1723, Johann Gottfried Walther observes that
Read more the word Ouverture is a generic term for an opening, because it “ opens the door, as it were, to the following pieces. Its real place is at the beginning of an opera or drama, although it can also be found at the beginning of chamber and orchestral works.” The form of the ouverture that we find in the orchestral suites penned by Fux, Telemann, Bach, and others originated with Jean-Battiste Lully. A slow, solemn introduction characterized by a jerky rhythm is followed by a faster passage—generally fugal in nature with contrasting passages for solo instruments (usually two oboes and a bassoon, known as the “French Trio”)—before the salutatory material is recapitulated. Then follows a sequence of dances, some of which (especially in the cases of Lully and Telemann) are character pieces bearing names like “Someille,” “Les irrésoluts,” and “Harlequinade.” The structure here was not rigid and therefore left the inventive composer with an opportunity to toy with the architecture as he saw fit. In the case of Fux, he included only two character pieces, “Libertein” and “Der Schmidt” (whose meanings go unexplained in the notes), and varied the closing movement from suite to suite. One concludes with a Chaconne, one with a Passacaglia, another with a movement marked Aria, and the fourth with a Gigue.

Founded by oboist Paul Dombrecht, Il Fondamento is a house band of sorts for Passacaille, Frank Loosveldt’s Belgian label, well known for its audacious forays into the darker recesses of 17th and 18th century music. The ensemble has been around for a decade and a half, has participated in the most prestigious European early-music festivals, and has made significant contributions to the recorded early-music repertoire.

The once-prevalent opinion was that Fux’s music was dry as dust, but that was predominantly because it was held up to standards of greatness and inspiration that it could not meet. While not on the same level of inspiration or level of craft as the suites of Bach or even Telemann, these works are interesting and inventive; their merit is enhanced by these invigorating and atmospheric interpretations that perfectly juxtapose stylistic awareness and musical common sense. Brightly paced performances, not to mention a well-nourished ensemble, are always in evidence and prove to be just the sort of tonic needed to resuscitate this long-neglected music. Though far from monumental, these examples are certainly exceptional among those of the generation prior to Bach. One hopes there will be more to come.

-- Michael Carter, Fanfare [1/2005]
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Works on This Recording

Overture in D minor by Johann Joseph Fux
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Period: Baroque 
Written: Austria 
Overture in B flat major by Johann Joseph Fux
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1701; Austria 
Overture in G minor by Johann Joseph Fux
Conductor:  Paul Dombrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Fondamento
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1701; Austria 

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