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In Search of Mr. Pisendel

This week on Harmonia we’ll explore music associated with a man that the “the most prominent German violinist of his day,” Johann Georg Pisendel.

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diptych of two old guys

Photo: Anonymous

Johann Georg Pisendel and Antonio Vivaldi were friends who exchanged ideas and music.

History has an odd way of leveling the playing field.  Composers who were immensely famous in their day will more often than not end up in complete obscurity.  This has certainly been the case for late baroque Dresden where we find names like Heinichen, Zelenka, Weiss, and even Hasse who have only come to be rediscovered in the past few decades.  To this group we can add Johann Georg Pisendel who, in his day, was a respected composer and virtuoso violinist.

Like many German musicians of the baroque, Pisendel traveled to France and Italy earlier in life in order to enrich his musical understanding and abilities.  While in Venice he was a student  of Antonio Vivaldi.  Their connection was to last a lifetime as Vivaldi would later dedicate some of his compositions to both Pisendel and the Dresden Hofkapelle orchestra.

Yet Vivaldi was not the only Venetian to  dedicate music to his German friend.  The dilettante composer Tomaso Albioni also wrote with Pisendel in mind.  Whereas Vivaldi composed both small and large scale music, Albinoni kept it simple—he dedicated only sonatas for violin and basso continuo.

This week’s new release is of music by Johann Gottlieb Graun and Carl Heinrich Graun. The ensemble Il Gardellino has released an exciting  recording of collaborative Graun concertos that feature some unlikely combinations, such as a concerto grosso for flute, violin, viola da gamba, cello and basso continuo.

Here’s a video of Accademia Per Musica performing Pisendel’s Concerto a 5 for strings and continuo in G major:

Part 1.


Part 2.


The music heard on this episode was performed by Anton Steck, Christian Rieger, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, and La Serenissima .

Johann Sebastian Bach: Laudamus te
La Petite Bande (Gustav Leonhardt, dir.),Isabelle Poulenard, soprano, with Sigiswald Kuijken, solo violin — Mass in B minor, BWV 232 (GD, 1985)
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Johann Georg Pisendel: Sonata in D major
Anton Steck, violin, and Christian Rieger, harpsichord — Violin Sonatas (CPO , 2004)
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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Concerto in F major RV 574
Freiburger Barockorchester — I concerti di Dresda (OP , 2002)
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Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751): Sonata a Violino di me Tomaso Albinoni Composta per il Signor Pisendel in Bb
La Serenissima (Adrian Chandler, dir.) — Per monsieur Pisendel (Avie , 2003)
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Johann Georg Pisendel: Concerti con varii strumenti
Freiburger Barockorchester — From Concerto in D (Gottfried von der Goltz, solo violin) (Carus , 1999)
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Johann Gottlieb Graun & Carl Heinrich Graun : 3.Allegro
Il Gardellino — Concerti (ACC , 2006)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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