Splendid Harmony

Splendid Harmony
Music by Thieme, Vierdanck and Furchheim
L’arpa festante
Deutsche HM 88985419452

Here’s a disc full of little-known composers with one thing in common – they all studied under the great German master of the early Baroque, Heinrich Schütz. The liner notes point out that he taught an enormous number of students and that consequently a whole generation of Schütz disciples eventually spread across Germany. While there’s plenty of Schütz’s vocal music to listen to, none of his instrumental music has survived – so it’s interesting to hear how his pupils approached the form.

It’s essentially a chance to think “what if?”. So, if you’re not familiar with names like Clemens Thieme or Johann Vierdanck (I wasn’t), this is a fine chance to discover some music off the beaten track. The recording is split between the aforementioned composers and Johann Wilhelm Furchheim, Johann Jacob Löwe and David Pohle. All of these composers are represented here by dance suites or sonatas.

Although there’s a danger with such a collection of the music sounding rather samey (some of the composers are more talented than others), there are enough surprises from L’arpa festante to keep the listener guessing. While there are few leap-from-your-seat moments, some clever programming allows for some well-placed juxtapositions of colour – I particularly liked the inclusion of Clemens Thieme’s two Sonatas à 5, which remove the violins from the ensemble and replace them with the richer sound of the viola. The continuo players are inventive, too, with harpsichordist/organist Ralf Waldner adding some spice at the right moments. A delightful recording for fans of the early Baroque.