Matthias Weckmann Sonatas given good account by Musica Fiata

Collegium Musicum societies sprang up across Germany during the Reformation. Originally, they were amateur musical groups created to perform instrumental works.

In time, many incorporated professional musicians. These expanded groups provided instrumental ensembles for large civic and church functions.

And in many cities, it wasn’t long before the leading local composers joined. They often wrote music for their collegiums and conducted performances.

The Hamburg Collegium Musicum of the 1650s was one of the most prestigious. Composers from other cities would send scores for the collegium to perform. This was the organization Matthias Weckmann founded.

Weckmann was a student of Heinrich Schutz and organist at JakobKirche in Hamburg. He was very much interested in the music of Italy, especially contrapuntal music. The works he composed for the Collegium Musicum reflect that interest.

The eleven sonatas recorded here use a variety of instrumental combinations. These were the musicians Weckmann worked with professionally, and he knew their capabilities. Every one of these sonatas pushes the limits of the instruments involved.

The Musica Fiata directed by Roland Wilson is up to the challenge. Wilson also plays cornetto with the ensemble. Wilson’s direction brings out the contrasting sections in Weckmann’s music. To my ears, there were hints of Gabrielli and his use of contrasting choirs.

The ensemble is well-recorded. There’s a little ambiance, but not a lot. And that’s appropriate. These would have been performed in a coffee house or other secular gathering place. So the sound would have been closed in.

There’s no harpsichord used here, only a chamber organ. That gives these works a very different sound quality than many Baroque chamber recordings. And, I think, one truer to the vision of organist Mathias Weckmann.

Matthias Weckmann: Eleven Sonatas for the Hamburg Collegium Musicum
Musica Fiata; Roland Wilson, director

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