This week, we revisit our “Say Who?” series with a 2013 release from Olde Focus Recordings featuring music for a quartet of viols written by David Funck—a musician born in 1648 in what is today the Czech Republic.
Funck didn’t leave a large footprint behind—the music on this recording comes from his one and only surviving publication of pieces. And we don’t know very much about his life either save some anecdotes that paint a picture of a man with a scandalous reputation. Educated at university in poetry, law, and music, Funck went on to hold some prominent positions in Reichenbach and later in Ilmenau. But in 1694, things took an ill-fated turn. Funck was hired to be the organist at the Latin School in Wunsiedel but was forced to leave the post following accusations of perverse and deviant behavior. A council record from the time refers to him as a böser mensch, or an evil man. After the trouble in Wunsiedel we kind of lose track of Funck’s biography, but legend has it that he met an unfortunate end, freezing to death after setting out for Arnstadt alone on foot.
Stricturæ Viola -di Gambicæ
The music from this recording was published in 1677 long before all of this tumult, during the height of the Funck’s career as an accomplished musician highly regarded by his peers. As mentioned before, this publication bearing the title Stricturæ Viola -di gambicæ is his only preserved music publication. This collection of dance suites for viols contains a total of 43 pieces, and was printed in four separate partbooks.
Recordings of Funck’s music are few and far between. There are some very old recordings made by Dolmetsch in the 1950’s of some this music performed on four recorders, and an arrangement of one of Funck’s suites for cello ensemble recorded by the 12 cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic only slightly more recently in 1976. But how wonderful to have a brand new release of Funck’s music performed on the instruments it was written for. With that in mind, its worth noting that in an addition to the viols on this recording, the performers add a keyboard accompaniment to some of the tracks. The addition isn’t actually specified in the score, but Funck was himself a good harpsichordist, and performance practice dictates that the addition is not outside the realm of possibility.
Dylan Sauerwald plays harpsichord, organ, and a gut-strung clavicytherium varying the color and texture throughout the disc to good effect. Rebekah Ahrendt, Kivie Cahn-Lipman, Jane Leggiero and Zoe Weiss perform on viols.