Italy, in no way, has a monopoly over pretty, sweeping, technically perfect and perfect-sounding violin music.
“Typically, people associate violin virtuosity with Italian music, and names such as Vivaldi, Tartini, Corelli, etc. are well known. This is not so much the case with German violin music of that period, but our program will show that [Johann Jakob] Walther, et al. wrote pieces that are beautiful and ‘flashy’ as well,” says violinist Sean Yung-Hsiang Wang, who, along with cellist Barrett Sills and harpsichordist Matthew Dirst, will come out with a Houston-recorded and -engineered, first-of-its-kind album during a concert later this month.
The trio will release Hortulus Chelicus, a potent four-disc set devoted to the music of Walther (1650-1717), during The German Virtuoso concert. Walther, a German Baroque violin player and composer, brought “the technical level of violin playing in seventeenth-century Germany to a new height,” reads the liner notes of the group’s album on Centaur Records that was engineered by Houston-based Ryan Edwards.
Additionally, his collections, Scherzi da violino solo and Hortulus Chelicus (Little Garden of the Violin) from 1688 “contain some of the most difficult pieces written for the violin up to that point in time, employing almost all of the known techniques and effects (with the exception of scordatura, which involves tuning the open strings in intervals other than the usual perfect fifths, a practice that Walther disliked),” reads the liner notes. “As such, even without considering their musical beauty, both collections qualify as landmark compositions in the development of violin music in the Baroque era.” All 28 pieces of the Hortulus Chelicus collection are included on the group’s CD.
“Our idea is to program a few pieces from Hortulus Chelicus and also music by other German violinist-composers around the turn of the 18th century, such as Johann Georg Pisendel (whose extremely challenging Sonata for Violin Solo in A Minor is on our program) and Johann Paul von Westhoff,” says Wang, the founder and director of the New York Intercultural Music Society and a Bard College faculty member, about the performance. The group will also perform music by Johann Christoph Friederich Bach (Cello Sonata in G) and Johann Sebastian Bach (Violin Sonata in G Major, BWV 1019).
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Ars Lyrica presents The German Virtuoso at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, at The MATCH, 3400 Main Street. Tickets cost $15 to $30. For more information, check out arslyricahouston.org.