12 tracks - MP3 192 Kbps - RAR Mb
Gottfried Finger (c.1655–1730) came into the world at the dawn of the High Baroque, a time of tremendous flux and experimentation. Born in Olmütz (now Olomouc in Moravia), Finger entered the service of the Prince-Bishop of Liechtenstein as a young man. The Prince maintained one of the leading court orchestras of Europe in nearby Kremsier, a musical Mecca that attracted a raft of famous musicians over the years: Biber, Schmelzer, Bertali. The evidence is sketchy, but it must have been at the Kremsier court where Finger developed his compositional skills and imbibed the musical traits that we nowadays characterize as Austrian—although, of course, that political entity did not yet exist. By the 1680s Finger was in London, where he found employment at the court of James II. This position was rather short-lived, as the court orchestra was dissolved in 1688 when James was forced into exile during the Glorious Revolution. Finger stayed on in London as a freelance musician; after the death of Purcell in 1695, Finger was consistently ranked one of the leading English composers for the theater. That position, however, was soon challenged. In March of 1700, the London Gazette ran an announcement of a rather curious competition, the task being to compose music to a play of Congreve, with a cash prize of 200 guineas awarded to the winner. Finger was pitted against three lesser composers: Daniel Purcell, John Eccles, and John Weldon. To everyone’s amazement, Weldon was declared the winner, and Finger was evidently so indignant at having lost that he left England immediately, never to return. The “injustice” of this contest and its outcome continued to resonate with the English for many years; both Burney and Roger North wrote disapprovingly of it. After England, Finger travelled to Mannheim, where he assumed the position of concertmaster of the orchestra of the newly built Electoral Residence. Here he remained until his death.
Finger’s op. 1 is a collection of 12 sonatas for string ensemble with basso continuo ; like so much music of the period, it’s a toss-up whether the music should be performed in chamber or orchestral fashion. As performed on this CD, it’s strictly chamber music, which I think works perfectly well. It’s hard to pin down the music; in addition to the Austrian qualities that Finger shares with Biber and Schmelzer, there is so much that it isn’t . There’s nary a hint of the outré that characterizes contemporary French music, nor is there any of the nervous intensity of the Italians. Finger’s music combines Austrian Gemütlichkeit and English sophistication with a touch of German intellectualism. I find Finger’s sonatas both relaxing and exhilarating, a contradiction, perhaps, but it certainly reflects both the kaleidoscopic nature of music during the period and Finger’s cosmopolitan life.
Echo du Danube is a well-established, pan-European period instrument ensemble with four previous titles on the Accent label to its credit; all of them garnered favorable responses from Fanfare reviewers J. F. Weber, Bertil van Boer and Michael Carter. I have nothing but the highest admiration for the performances on this disc. Depending on the scoring, there are as many as three violinists and one violist in the mix; the upper strings are expressive, supple, and suave. Director Christian Zincke also functions as the bass viola da gamba player, and together with keyboardist Lutz Gillmann they provide a solid underpinning for the group. Gillmann alternates between harpsichord and chamber organ; I find the sonority of the latter especially appropriate in the context of the string ensemble. Ample annotations and a thoroughly natural-sounding engineering job complete the picture. Another fine addition to the already extensive Accent catalog. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
Sonata prima pro Violino & Viola di Gamba
Sonata nona pro 3 Violinis
Sonata undecima pro 2 Violinis & Viola
Sonata quinta pro 2 Violinis & Viola di Basso
Sonata settima pro 3 Violinis
Sonata terza pro Violino & Viola di Gamba
Sonata duodecima pro 2 Violinis & Viola
Sonata quarta pro 2 Violinis & Viola di Basso
Sonata decima pro 2 Violinis & Viola
Sonata ottava pro 3 Violinis
Sonata seconda pro Violino & Viola di Gamba
Sonata sesta pro 2 Violinis & Viola di Basso
Echo du Danube
dir. Christian Zincke