Rosenmüller was born at Oelsnitz in Saxony. He studied at the University
of Leipzig, worked at St. Thomas’s and died in Wolfenbüttel. Despite
all this, these sonatas, to quote the fascinating and detailed booklet
essay (in CPO’s usual incredibly small print) by Jörg Hillebrand are
“clearly the fruits of his labours in Venice and may be regarded as
the crowning conclusion of his Italian period.”
The twelve sonatas are therefore typical of their period, influences
and place: They are short - the longest is just over eight minutes -
and have at least three sections in contrasting tempi. In fact there
are often five sections and sometimes more. Dance rhythms play a strong
part in the faster pieces. An older style polyphony switches easily
with a more searching harmonic palette. The parts range from two - that
is a bass line with continuo and melody over - to a five-part texture.
The instruments employed by the twelve members of Musica Fiata include
a chitarrone, bass viol, dulcian, which is a bassoon and features prominently
in the quite arresting Sonata VIII
. There are also violins and
‘Zinken’ - a German cornetto. The booklet also lists Posaunen, which
are early trombones. As you move through the CD the instrumentation
varies pleasingly. This does mean that unless you want to hear the sonatas
in numerical order you will find that the instrumentation holds your
interest. I have listed the sonatas above in the order in which they
appear. The performances are sensitive, lyrical and clearly balanced,
ornamentation where used, is beautifully in keeping.
Rosenmüller was forced to leave his employment in Leipzig due to an
accusation of pederasty and flew to Venice. This proved a bonus for
German instrumental music because he was able to earn a living as a
trombonist in St. Mark’s Venice. What he must have played and heard
in the 1650s and 1660s is mind-boggling. Schütz would have been around
as would Cavalli (d.1676), and the opera composer Antonio Cesti (d.1669).
There was an increasing interest in opera and theatre. Giovanni Legrenzi
(d.1690) had also been prolifically writing sonatas and seems to have
had some influence on Rosenmüller.
Incidentally there is a disc which enables you to contrast sonatas by
Rosenmüller, Legrenzi and Stradella. This is worth seeking out. It’s
by The Rare Fruits Council under Manfredo Kraemer (Ambronay
) which I reviewed in 2011.
Rosenmüller also composed many, rather vivid, Latin-sacred works for
voices and instruments. These are in an Italian style which would have
suited Venetian taste. Not surprisingly therefore Rosenmüller’s sonatas
sometimes inhabit a sense of the dramatic with weird chromatic passages.
There are daring modulations as for example in Sonata I
its lovely cornetto part as well as sudden tempo changes. These are
always imbued with a sense of Germanic logic.
Quite rightly the booklet essay highlights four of the more interesting
sonatas. I will draw some of them to your attention now to enable you
to gain a deeper view of the music.
The Sonata II
in two parts consists of slow movements with short
passages scattered about its eight minutes. The final
is especially ‘sumptuous’ (Hillebrand) The Sonata
has a chromatically rising figure which obviously brings Bach
to mind. At the end it fades away like sighs at the end of a love-lorn
aria. Sonata I
and Sonata IV
are highlighted in the booklet
but I would instead draw to your attention Sonata VI
It is in three parts. The first begins with a wild presto full of virtuoso
scales. This but quickly subsides into a cadence point before a slow,
rather lugubrious chromatic fugal section begins. An Adagio
of about four bars leads into a gentle, imitative, compound time polyphonic
section. This becomes rather free before another expressive Adagio
takes hold, but only briefly as a repeat of the opening (almost) bursts
in to end the sonata amid excitement. This bears a strong resemblance
to the pattern of Legrenzi’s sonatas. The final track is the joyous
in five parts with cornetto to the fore. Here Heinrich
Biber (d.1704) came to mind especially in its more solemn moments but
also in its fanfare figures.
This disc is from a somewhat specialist area but it’s wonderfully played
and will give much pleasure especially to lovers of the early baroque.