Notes and Editorial Reviews
J. C. F. FISCHER
Le journal du printemps
Michi Gaigg, cond; L’Orfeo Baroque O
cpo 777 150-2 (77:39)
To live and work artistically in most German states during the period when Louis XIV reigned in France meant being at least knowledgeable about all matters French. Many German courts assiduously copied the Sun King’s sense of style; and a visit to many Baroque museums throughout modern Germany is a small education in French culture of the period. So it’s not that surprising that Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer
(1656–1746) chose to publish a series of eight orchestral suites in the French manner, while working as Hopfkapellmeister to Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden-Baden. The Margrave’s court was artistically cosmopolitan and sophisticated, and the Margrave himself was a Francophile, despite spending much of his distinguished soldiering career ironically serving against France.
Le journal du printemps
is not a programmatic work. Its title might be taken to refer to music written during the composer’s youth, for he was 38 when it appeared, and nothing of his had been previously published. The music reveals him as a Lullist of no mean stature, sustaining a four- and five-part homophonic string texture with admirable textural diversity, thematic distinction, and rhythmic vivacity. He covers the field of French dances well, offering among others a bransle (here termed a brandlay), sarabande, rigaudon, a majestic chaconne, a profoundly touching passacaille, several gavottes of contrasting character (flirtatious in the Third Suite, grave in the Sixth), mercurial canaries, and a brace of graceful minuets. His overtures are relatively short affairs, their quick sections more contrapuntally imitative than fugal, no doubt fitting the needs for contemporary elegant court entertainment.
The performances of the L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra are incisive yet well blended, with several oboes, and a pair each of recorders and trumpets to vary the sound. I felt that on a few occasions Gaigg selected hectic tempos that worked against the effect of the music, most evidently in the passacaille from the Suite No. 4 in D Minor. But by and large his tempos were judiciously chosen, and his phrasing anything but metronomic. The reverberant recording environment had a hand in making the ensemble sound larger than they are—they number only 26—but there is no loss of precision. Miking is forward, with excellent stereo placement.
Highly recommended to Baroque enthusiasts, especially those who have been wishing for more overtures and suites just as tuneful as anything composed by Handel or Telemann.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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