When we think of music in Vienna, names such as Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Schoenberg might come to mind. However, these musical giants are only a few in the long line of influential composers and musicians to come out of Vienna. This hour on Harmonia, we explore the work of Viennese composers from the Middle Ages through the high Baroque. Our featured release is Stephen Schultz and Jory Vinikour’s 2018 recording of J. S. Bach’s sonatas for flute and harpsichord.
We heard a sonata a 6 from the Sacro profanus concentus musicus 1662, by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. Freiburg Baroque Consort performed on that 2012 harmonia mundi recording, Barockes Welttheater.
Battle of the Bands, 1207
The Contest of Song on the Wartburg, also known as the “Sängerkrieg,” was legendary. This famous minnesinger competition took place in 1207 at Wartburg, a castle in Thuringia, Germany. Whether the contest existed in reality or just in legend is still up for debate, but it was such an important moment in German cultural history that Wagner used this competition as the basis for his 1845 opera Tannhäuser. One of the characters is even named Walther von der Vogelweide, after the Medieval minnesinger.
Let’s hear music by the real Walther von der Vogelweide.
Sabine Lutzenberger, soprano, performing Walther von der Vogelweide’s Palästinalied. Per-Sonata performed on that 2015 Christophorus recording of music by Walter von der Vogelweide and his contemporaries.
If the famous Contest of Song on the Wartburg really did happen, it must have been quite the event. Vogelweide was associated with the court of Babenberg in Vienna, and the competition took place nearly 400 miles away. 13th century accounts describe a contest among six minnesingers to determine who could sing the most florid praises of the Count and Countess of Thuringia. Let’s hear music by Wolfram von Eschenbach, one of Vogelweide’s competitors. “Sweet Schoysiane,” the narrator sings, “radiant and constant as she was, died in giving birth to a daughter who was endowed with many blessings. All maidenly honor had its source in her. She had so much loyalty that they still speak about it in many lands.”
Music by Wolfram von Eschenbach. We heard Drew Minter singing and playing the Medieval harp.
“Murder over all grief!”
Not much is known about the life of 16th century composer Heinrich Finck. Apparently, the only source of information we have regarding his birth year is a commemorative medal coined by King Ferdinand I of Bohemia and Hungary. From this same medal, we understand that he died in Vienna in 1527. Finck was an active chapel master and composer in several cities in Central and Eastern Europe. He worked in courts from Krackow to Stuttgart, Salzburg, and Vienna.
Let’s hear Finck’s “Veni redemptor gentium,” composed for Advent.
We heard “Veni redemptor gentium,” a text for Advent, set by Heinrich Finck. We heard the Hamburger Ratsmusik from their 2016 recording.
Finck wrote secular works as well, including many German lieder. In this poem, “Ich stund an einem Morgen,” the narrator overhears a young woman conversing with her lover, begging him not to leave her. The last stanza reads,
“The miss screamed: ‘Woe!
Murder over all grief! Your words hurt me;
dear heart, don’t leave me!
For you I’ll give all I have and my honor,
and if I can go with you,
no journey would be too long for me.’”
This farewell song was widely known in Renaissance Europe. In addition to the Finck version we’re about to hear, settings survive from Senfl, Isaac, Stoltzer, and van Bruck.
“Ich stund an einem Morgen” performed by Josquin Capella, and directed by Meinholf Brüsser.
The Viennese School
The term “First Viennese School” is typically used to refer to late 18th and early 19th century composers including Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. The composers of the Second Viennese School include Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. However, Vienna was a compositional powerhouse long before the rise of the Classical era. An earlier Viennese School might include baroque composers such as Johann Joseph Fux and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer.
Famous for his contributions to counterpoint instruction, Fux lived in Vienna, working at the court of Emperor Leopold I. Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven were all familiar with Fux’s 1725 publication, Gradus ad Parnassum, a textbook on high renaissance polyphony that is still used today as a foundational text in music theory and composition courses.
Here are two movements from Fux’s Cappricio and Fugue in G Minor.
We heard La Superbia and L’Humilta from the Cappricio and Fugue in G minor by Johann Joseph Fux.
Like Fux, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer worked in the court of Emperor Leopold I. Today, Schmelzer is remembered for his development of violin technique and of sonata and suite forms. See if you can hear the similarities between Corelli’s famous “La Folia” and Schmelzer’s Variations on ‘la bella Pastora.’
We heard Schmelzer’s Variations on ‘la bella Pastora,’ music for two violins and continuo. That was the Freiburg Baroque Consort, with violinists Petra Mülleans and Chrisa Kittel.
J. S. Bach: Sonatas for Flute and Harpsichord
Bach’s Sonata in B minor for flute and harpsichord, BWV 1030, is a reworking of an earlier piece. The work is modified from its original key and scoring, which may have been for violin rather than flute. Many performers consider this work to be Bach’s most challenging flute sonata, the Mount Everest to a whole range of difficult slopes!
We heard the Presto and Gigue from Bach’s B Minor flute sonata, BWV 1030. The performers were Stephen Schultz, traverso, and Jory Vinikour, harpsichord, from our featured release, J. S. Bach: Sonatas for Flute and Harpsichord.
Who was Bach writing these virtuosic pieces for? In the 1730s, Bach was becoming more familiar with the local musicians in Dresden, a city known for its exceptional woodwind players and composers, including flutists Pierre Gabriel Buffardin and Johann Joachim Quantz.
We’ll conclude with the intimate Siciliano from the Sonata in E-flat major for flute and harpsichord. Although this piece is attributed to Bach in most 18th century sources, the style and other evidence suggests that it may have come from the pen of a different composer, perhaps Quantz or Carl Heinrich Graun.
That was the Siciliano from BWV 1031, attributed to J. S. Bach. We heard flutist Stephen Schultz and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour from their 2018 recording of Bach’s sonatas for flute and harpsichord.
Break and theme music
:30, Missa super Ave praeclara / Sacred Works, Josquin Capella, CPO 2016, Tr. 7 Heinrich Finck: O Domine Jesu Christe
:60, Johann Joseph Fux: Pièces pour clavecin, Dorota Cybulska-Amsler, Phaia 1995, Tr. 30 VIII. Menuet
:30, Walter von der Vogelweide: Lieder von Macht und Liebe, Per-Sonata, Christophorus 2015, Tr. 6 Estampe uber den Golener Ton
Theme: Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, Tr. 12 La Prime Estampie Royal
The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Sarah Huebsch.
Learn more about recent early music CDs on the Harmonia Early Music Podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes or at http://www.harmoniaearlymusic.org.