JOHANN ERNST Complete Violin Concertos
‘His Highness lived only a little more than 18 years,’ wrote Georg Philipp Telemann in the preface to Prince Johann Ernst of Weimar’s Six Concertos, Op 1, published in 1718, three years after his death. ‘Admire in him that in the few years granted to him he developed such a mastery in an art as difficult to learn as music…Even after his death he shall always remain the joy of us all through his works.’
Telemann’s words would be enough to pique the interest of anyone with a predilection for Baroque rarities, and when you listen to this recording – the first to present all of Ernst’s concertos in complete form, meaning those aforementioned six, plus two further G major ones – you do get a sense of why they were considered to be musically valuable in their day. Full of Italian influence, youthful in tone but sophisticated in thought, dance-like and virtuoso, they make for immensely pleasurable listening.
Recorded in Blankenburg’s St Bartholomäus-Kirche, this is on the one hand an immensely scholarly endeavour from Ensemble ‘Fürsten-Musik’. Few booklet-notes go into such detail over sources as these ones do; then, along with the period instruments and historically informed playing styles, there’s their specific mission to reproduce the instrumental circumstances of Weimar’s court chapel at the time, meaning most crucially four tutti violins. The resultant sound, though, is just eminently natural and nimbly elegant, Anne Schumann’s graceful, unshowy virtuosity shining out through strong solo-tutti contrasts.
Also on the disc are JS Bach’s keyboard transcriptions of three of the Op 1 concertos, each programmed alongside its original ensemble version, and these are as enjoyable for letting us hear how Bach adapts the scores to the limitations and strengths of the keyboard as they are for the verve and dazzling technique of harpsichordist Sebastian Knebel.