Weckmann, Matthias: 10 Instrumental Sonatas, ed. Helen Roberts
Matthias Weckmann, Sonate à 3 e 4 istromenti
D-Lr KN207, Heft 14
10 Sonatas for Violin, Cornettino, Trombone (or Viola da Gamba), Bassoon (or Bombard) and Basso Continuo
Printed Edition £20.00 (plus p&p)
Full score and separate instrumental parts (incl. basso continuo)
Edited by Helen Roberts
Matthias Weckmann (c.1616 – 1674) and his work occupy a central place in the history of the early German baroque. He studied with Heinrich Schütz, was a close friend of Johann Jacob Froberger and co-founded, together with Christoph Bernhard, the Hamburg Collegium Musicum, a renowned North-German centre of musical thought and practice during the mid-seventeenth century. His output of keyboard works links him closely with the Sweelinck school of virtuoso organ composers and he was influenced heavily by the English virginalists he met during his employment in Dresden and Copenhagen. The liturgical works he composed whilst Kappellmeister in Dresden reflect the increasing presence of Italian-style sacred music in the German church, fostered by visiting Italian musicians such as Giovanni Andrea Bontempi. Weckmann’s was a truly pan-European circle.
The ten instrumental sonatas published here represent an important, often overlooked aspect of Weckmann’s oeuvre, which bring together many aspects of Weckmann’s compositional style and diverse international influences. The unusual instrumentation is reminiscent of many Italian composers working in Austria and Southern Germany during the mid-seventeenth century, such as Giovanni Valentini, Biagio Marini and Marc-Antonio Ferro. Like these Italians, Weckmann gives all four instrumental parts equal melodic and virtuosic weight, leaving us with some of the most inventive writing, particularly for the winds, that this repertoire has to offer. Harmonically, Weckmann’s sudden changes of colour and texture between sections hark back to the early Italian instrumental sonatas of Dario Castello and Giovanni Battista Fontana, but using a highly developed, often surprising harmonic language familiar from his keyboard works.
Unlike many contemporary Italian sonatas along these lines, Weckmann’s works were not written for the church but for the Hamburg Collegium Musicum which he founded with Bernhard in 1660. The Collegium was a society of musicians comprising singers from the local churches and instrumentalists from the town band. The virtuosity of Weckmann’s sonatas is testament to the skill of these instrumentalists, who were expected to be equally proficient on a wide variety of wind and string instruments. The instrumental designations that Weckmann gives also point to the variety of talented players available, with alternatives given for many of the parts; it is conceivable that each civic wind player, or Stadtpfeifer, would have been capable of playing these lines on either of the instruments Weckmann designates, a humbling concept indeed by today’s standards.