Monday, January 6, 2020

Duo Sans Souci Berlin performs works of the French and German Baroque at the Jerusalem Music Centre

Christoph Huntgeburth (courtesy UdK Berlin)

Irmgard Huntgeburth (courtesy UdK, Berlin)
Seeing in the new year on January 2nd 2020 at the Jerusalem Music Centre, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, was a concert of French- and German Baroque music played on authentic instruments by Duo Sans Souci Berlin - Irmgard Huntgeburth, playing a violin by Till Riecke, Cremona 1994, after Stradivari and Christoph Huntgeburth, playing a transverse flute by Simon Polak, 2019 after Palanca. It was the duo's first visit to Israel. Prof. C. Huntgeburth held a master class at the JMC.


We heard two sonatas of Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, one of the most prolific and versatile composers in France in the first half of the 18th century and who was unique in the fact that he was not connected to church or court. Many Baroque music aficionados are familiar with his chamber music (he also wrote motets and operas and two treatises, the latter now lost.)   Au courant with the current musical taste of the French bourgeoisie, including the great popularity of the transverse flute at that time (also among amateurs), Boismortier provided them and us with much genial repertoire composed in the galant style. The artists played two of the “Six Sonates pour une flûte traversière et un violon par accords, sans basse”, Op.51 (1734), the original scoring for flute and violin highlighting the individuality of each instrument. With the violin taking on the twofold role of providing a measure of harmonic basis but also engaging in some melodic banter with the flute, the Huntgeburths’ elegant reading of Sonatas 3 and 1 “breathed” naturally, indulged in gentle flexing, offered stylish inégal passages, textural variety and much sophisticated ornamentation of the flute line. Boismortier published music which was within the reach of amateurs, but it must be noted that there were many skilled and well-educated amateur players meeting in the fashionable music salons for an evening of chamber music. 


Also galant in style, No.7 of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for Violin without Bass comes from a collection of twelve works for “Kenner and Liebhaber” (professionals and amateurs), written to be challenging enough for the former but not too difficult for the latter. Solo pieces for violin with no continuo part are rare in Baroque repertoire; these Telemann pieces, not heard often enough, provide stylistic variety, constituting a veritable kaleidoscope of 18th century musical genres. In fact, the Twelve Fantasias constitute a pivotal work representative of the musical transition that took place during the composer’s life. Taking time to spell out the opening movement’s course, Irmgard Huntgeburth’s playing draws the listener in with her articulate playing of melodies and essential skeleton “bass” notes, as she shaped each miniature movement with delicacy and suspense. No.7 in E flat major gives a semblance of different voices (or instruments) and sonorities in its use of the “luthé” technique (playing melodies in different registers.) 


The pieces published every two weeks in Telemann’s music periodical “ Der getreue Musikmeister” (The Faithful Music Master) are the first known examples of musical works presented in instalments (1728, 1729; a total of 25 issues). Telemann thus pleased the music-loving public (and his own pocket) by constantly offering new pieces for domestic music-making and for different instrumental combinations. Introducing Telemann’s Duetto in G major from the series, Christoph Huntgeburth said it was the composer’s only duet for flute and violin. The artists’ playing of it was lyrical, singing, playful and finely coordinated, with delicately-shaped movement endings, the work signing out with the jolly Vivace e staccato movement, its bourdon and folk-like romp over in the wink of an eye.


Then to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Duet for flute and violin in E minor (1748), one of Emanuel’s two surviving duets of the three he wrote without a harpsichord basso part. Displaying the contrasts and rhetoric of the “empfindsamer” (sensitive) style adopted by J.S.Bach’s most audacious and unconventional son, the artists gave an evenly-balanced performance of the work’s dialogue, rich in intricacy, mood changes, dynamic variety and gestures of gentle and bold character, its third movement (Allegretto) a colourful mix of reticence, jollity and jocular imitation. Even its key scheme of one minor- and then two major movements reflects the free flight of fancy of the composer whose music was referred to by Charles Burney as “not the wild ravings of ignorance or madness, but the effusions of cultivated genius”


The Jerusalem concert was an evening of short, concise works, substantiating how the Baroque musical style can say so much in so few gestures; but the quintessence of the miniature was to be heard in Christoph Huntgeburth’s playing of Jacques Hotteterre’s “Préludes pour la flûte traversière”. During his lifetime, Hotteterre owed his fame largely to his talent in playing the flute, an instrument for which he wrote several pieces, significantly extending the instrument’s repertoire. His “L'Art de préluder sur la flûte traversière” (1719) is an excellent source on ornamentation and improvisational practices during this period. We were presented with the stream of minute tiny musical vignettes in different keys, each just a few bars long, each different in character, each perfectly formed from start to finish, strategically timed and suavely ornamented, separated by just a breath between each. Hotteterre’s poetic musings were splendidly displayed through the traverso artist’s rich palette of colours and textures, Huntgeburth’s precise intonation never revealing the obstacles posed by this poetic but uncooperative instrument!


A concert appealing to the most discerning of Baroque music aficionados, it comprised an interesting and varied selection of pieces, elegantly, personally and subtly presented by experts in historically informed performance.


Christoph Huntgeburth studied music in Münster and Basel with W. Michel and Hans Martin Linde. He started teaching at the Bern Konservatorium in 1982 and was appointed Professor at the University of the Arts Berlin in 1984. He performs both as soloist and principal flautist with the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and as a chamber musician in Germany and abroad. He has made numerous recordings of Baroque, Classical and Romantic flute repertoire. The instruments he plays are either original period instruments or made by him.


Irmgard Huntgeburth studied singing, violin and baroque violin in Münster, Freiburg and Basel, in 1984 deciding to specialise in period performance practice on Baroque string instruments. Co-founder of the Ensemble Sans Souci Berlin, she performs as concert-master and chamber musician in Germany and abroad. She joined the Early music department at the Berlin University of the Arts in 1992, where she teaches Baroque violin, viola and chamber music. As music director of opera productions with the Ensemble I Confidenti and Barocco Continuo, her focus is on the connection between musical- and dramaturgic artistry.




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