GMCD 7330 – Music for Flute by Gasparo Fritz (1716-1783)

Claire Genewein – traverse flute, Nicoleta Paraschivescu – hapsichord, Maya Amrein – cello

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Fanfare Magazine July / August 2011

The concept of a Swiss composer of the 18th century is not one that immediately leaps to mind. In the historical scheme of things, the various cantons of this land, not yet united into the quadralingual nation we know today, seems on the periphery of mainstream musical trends of the period, and one would be hard-pressed to discover that an active musical life could be found in places such as Zürich and Lucerne. The names of composers such as Constatin Reindl and Nicholas Scherrer have all but disappeared from history, but there is a ray of light that has appeared in recent years. This comes in the form of Genevan composer Gaspard Fritz (1716-83), who was not only praised by Handel and Locatelli, but also by no less than Charles Burney, who noted that in a town that was almost devoid of music, Fritz and a group of expat Englishmen formed the Common Room of Geneva. Fritz even conducted the orchestra there, and audience members included Voltaire. Fritz was trained in Turin as a violinist and when he toured infrequently he was praised for his technical ability, although there were concerns expressed about his rather free interpretation of rhythm. In 1756 his works began to be performed at the Concerts Spirituels in Paris, a step that was de rigeur for composers seeking international fame.
This set of flute sonatas was published as Fritz’s op. 2 in 1748, probably in Geneva, and dedicated to the later Duke Friedrich III of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg-like many nobility of the period, an avid flute player. Originally, these works specified either violin or flute, but the parts are so idiomatic for the latter that it would be difficult to achieve the same results with a stringed instrument. All six of these works are fairly eclectic, demonstrating that Fritz was halfway between the Baroque and early Classical galant styles. This also indicates that he may have composed these at separate times, only putting them together as a set for publication. The opening sonata in C Major is clearly the most advanced of the set, with a vivacious first movement in something that resembles sonata form with contrasting themes and duple-triplet solo lines. The lilting dance rhythms of the second-movement Siciliano remind one of Franz Xaver Richter, who often used these stylized dances in his inner movements. The least advanced is the A-Major third sonata, which follows the four-movement Baroque format of two pairs of slowfast movements. It is the shortest of the set, with two very stately, almost Spanish-sounding slow movements, followed by highly florid Prestos (OK, the first is a Vivace) that evoke the world of Telemann. In the fourth sonata, one admired by Locatelli, the third-movement Gratioso is Handelian in the spinning-out of motivic units in Baroque fashion, building lines from sequenced musical fragments. Both the last two sonatas have final movements that are minuets, perhaps more deliberate than one might expect, indicating that Fritz was already thinking of a more stylized form of the dance. In several instances, he offers a continuo introduction to the last movement. In the aria movement of the second sonata in D Major, this expands lyrically into a delightful paraphrase of a vocal operatic work, allowing the sonata to move into a more pensive direction than the usual finale.
All three of the performers come from the famed Schola Cantorum in Basel, which is known for turning out musicians whose musicality and expertise in performance practice are exemplary. Claire Genewein gives a clear and precise performance on her transverse flute, while harpsichordist Nicoleta Paraschivescu is an equal partner in all aspects, never allowing the continuo to become subordinate. Maya Amrein’s cello is unobtrusive, supporting without dominating, making this one of the best trios I’ve heard recently. The ornamentation, mostly improvised, is done following French models of composers such as Leclair, and always seems appropriate for the works and never overbearing. The Fritz sonatas have been recorded before, in 1995 on the Jecklin label with violinst Susanne Baltensperger and harpsichordist Anna-Katherina Graf. Were it not for the fact that this seems to be out of print, one could make a comparison of both the pieces and the performances, but there is no doubt that the flute version would win by a mile. My only peeve is that Fritz’s first name is listed as “Gasparo,” which was no doubt taken from the title page of the printed edition of the sonatas (and of course is Italian), but mostly we refer to him as Gaspard or Kaspar, both of which forms he evidently used. If you are a lover of offbeat chamber music of the 18th-century galant period, you will want to have this in your collection.
Bertil van Boer

American Record Guide Januar/Februar 2011

Gasparo Fritz (1716-83) was a discovery to me. He was a Swiss violinist-composer who wrote in the post-baroque style of the students of JS Bach. He was born and lived in Geneva, which, owing to the predominant influence of Calvinism, was a largely unmusical city. He moved among a circle of expatriates who established a concert life in Geneva in the mid-18th Century, though little evidence of his musical activities has come down to us. His works, however, were published in Geneva, Paris, and London over 30 years from 1742, and distributed all over Europe. In his young adulthood, Fritz had studied in Turin with Giovanni Battista Somis, a student of Corelli who was also the teacher of violinist-composers Giardini, Pugnani, and Leclair. Thereafter Fritz remained almost entirely in Geneva, except two documented appearances in France, on the Concerts Spirituels in 1756 and on the estate of Voltaire in 1759.
The Six Sonatas for Violin or Transverse Flute first appeared in 1748, and only three copies of the original edition are known to be extant, though later editions followed. There is a four-movement sonata da chiesa, while the other five are, a la Tartini and Locatelli, in three-movement form (but not necessarily fast-slow-fast). They remind me of the sonatas of Giovanni Platti (c. 1700-63) and CPE Bach, and, in difficulty, the late 18th Century sonatas of flutist-composer Francois Devienne. Typical of rococo or empfindsam style, the sonatas are supplied with a maximum of ornamentation, both notated and added by the performers. Some widely-spaced grace notes are probably double-stops, and in the second sonata there is a notated cadenza.This is a period instrument performance by Claire Genewein, flute; Maya Amrein, cello; and Nicoleta Paraschivescu, harpsichord. Genewein is an accomplished German-born flutist who studied both the baroque and modern instruments in Austria, Holland, and Switzerland. She plays extrmely wee, and her sound is sweet and gentle. Tempos are invariably interesting, and because of the lavish writing, the music always stays busy. The only bad quality to the performance is occasional stepwise chromaticism that may sound better on violin, but the sonatas actually work very well on flute. I would gladly listen to the Ensemble Arcadia again.The notes are in English and German, and the cover art is a view of Geneva c. 1790—after the composer had died. Nice try.

International Record Review October 2009

Fritz New Flute Sonatas, Op. 2 – No. 1 in C; No. 2 in D; No. 3 in A; No. 4 in E minor; No. 5 in D; No. 6 in G.
Claire Genewein (transverse flute); Maya Amrein (cello); Nicoleta Paraschivescu (harpsichord).
Guild GMCD7330 (full price, 54 minutes). Website Producer / Engineer  Andreas Werner. Dates October 13th-15th, 2008.

It is likely that few IRR readers (or indeed contributors) have ever heard of Gasparo Fritz (1716-83) – I certainly had not. From Nicola Schneider’s comprehensive booklet notes, we learn that he was a Swiss composer whose violinist father emigrated from Germany. His real narre was Kaspar Fritz (presumably he thought `Gasparo’ sounded more cosmopolitan). Some would think it odd that Fritz remained his whole life in the City of his birth, Geneva, as this Calvinist enclave was in Dr Schneider’s words `not well disposed to his art’. Fritz was well known as a violinist and had been a pupil of the highly influcntial G. B. Somis in Turin. Attending musical performances

bv Fritz was apparently one of the few artistic events available to visitors to Geneva and most left with favourable impressions. One connoisseur, however, noted in 1758 that while Fritz had ample tonal purity and virtuosity he sometimes lost his rhythm owing to his excessive ornamentation – an informative insight into mid-eighteenth­century performance practice.

As a composer, Fritz, perhaps revealingly, dedicatcd nearly all his printed works to foreigners. Copies of his publications can be found in Danish, Swedish, Belgian, German and American libraries (the last of north Italian provenance). These were generally well received. From Amsterdam, the great violin virtuoso Locatelli appreciated the merits of the Op. 2 Sonatas, which are the subject of this recording, but also sent the composer some friendly advice on how to improve Sonata No. 5 was published in 1748, probably in Geneva. Its dedicatee was the young Prince Frederick III of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, who may have been a pupil of Fritz’s during a study stay in Geneva. The sonatas were stated to be suitable for violin or transverse flute, as was common at the time, a well-known example being Locatelli’s sonatas. Stylistically, the works are transitional between Baroque and Classical. I was sometimes reminded of Tessarini, though Fritz’s works have more substance. While not melodically memorable, the sonatas are agreeable enough. In some of the sonatas, the final movement has a theme and variations structure and the hitherto continuo-only harpsichord is given some interesting obblibato passages. These movements are the highlights of the set.

On this recording, a Baroque flute is employed throughout, accompanied by harpsichord and cello. The musicians play period instruments, but no details are provided of when they were made or by whom. A specialist in period-instrument performance, Claire Genewein studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and in the Hague with Barthold Kuijken. Her doctoral dissertation was on Galuppi’s performance practice and she plays in several renowned European Baroque orchestras and ensembles. However, she also champions modern music. Apparently she was awarded a special prize by Karl­Heinz Stockhausen for a performance of his Zugenspitzentantz for piccolo. (Stockhausen on the piccolo – surely the audience deserved a prize!) Genewein’s playing of Fritz’s Op. 2 is near flawless. Like that of Fritz, her tone is pure and her virtuosity is beyond doubt. She adds quite a deal of stylish ornamentation, but, perhaps unlike Fritz, always keeps in touch with the underlying pulse. Nicoleta Paraschivescu, ably supported by Maya Amrein, plays the continuo parts with taste and restraint but seizes the opportunities for display offered by those concertante final movements and proves herself a very fine musician.

This disc would make a lovely gift for flautist friends and others, too, should find it surprisingly enjoyable. Andrew O’Connor

These hitherto little appreciated works have a fine send-off into the market-place …

MusicWeb International Thursday December 10th 2009

Fritz was Swiss-born in 1716 and is obscure. His career was centred on Geneva, city of his birth. These flute sonatas were written essentially for the amateur market of the day. As a footnote it’s interesting that editions of Fritz’s music should be so geographically far flung but he did dedicate an awful lot of his works to foreigners.

The Op.II Flute sonatas were published over a wide period of time; some three decades in fact. They look to models for the violin, such as the sonatas of Locatelli, whilst also showing sure awareness of the solo works of Bach. There is only one sonata di chiesa amongst the set of six and that is the A major (No.3) which is perhaps a little surprising. Nevertheless with craft and architectural guile Fritz fashions sonatas of genuine warmth and surety. Nothing truly earth shattering happens but it’s clear that his neglect has been unwarranted and the performers do great credit both to his legacy and their own subtlety and instrumental finesse in bringing it to life.

A few examples will suffice. The Largo of No.1 reveals a debt to Bachian models – it’s not the only movement to do so. The D major sonata has hints of Locatelli and its athletic central Allegro tests technique (not found wanting here). As so often it’s the finale, which embeds an aria and variations, that is the most personable and fluent movement. There’s a delicious series of brief variations, as well as some fine decorations, and a quite extended solo role for harpsichord.

The best moments in that sonata di chiesa are probably the charming arabesques of the second movement and the sense of lightness and vivacity that are imparted generally. The fourth sonata is one of the finest of the straight from the fluent and fluid opening, through to the mini cadenza for harpsichord in the finale. Here Fritz seems genuinely inspired. He brings a sense of fantasy to the writing and to the exciting exchanges between flute and harpsichord which, allied to textual variety, ensures that this sonata should have a life outside the confines of the Op. II set. If the finale of the Fifth sonata, whilst deft, lacks the ultimate in melodic distinction it’s always smiling and engaging. The same goes for the variations in the Moderato finale. Here again, Fritz is found at his most unbuttoned and imaginative.

Claire Genewein is the intrepid heroine of the disc, aided with great perspicacity and musicality by Maya Amrein (cello) and harpsichordist Nicoleta Paraschivescu. With helpful notes and a good, well-balanced recording these hitherto little appreciated works have been given a fine send-off into the market-place.
Jonathan Woolf

Fritz’s various musical ideas and melodic invention have resulted in a set of entertaining sonatas …

MusicWeb International Wednesday October 14th 2009

Gasparo Fritz is one of the many composers from the mid-18th century whose name and works have disappeared under the dust of history. He was a respected musician, though, who once performed at the Concert Spirituel in Paris, and whose music was appreciated by Handel and Charles Burney. His Christian name Gasparo is the Italian form of his original name, Kaspar. His father, Philipp, was from Celle in Germany and had settled in Geneva as a music teacher. According to Charles Burney he was a pupil of Giovanni Battista Somis in Turin, but in 1736 he was back in Geneva where he stayed the rest of his life. He seems to have moved in aristocratic circles as the dedications of his various publications indicate. He acted as director of musical performances by English residents of Geneva and also as a teacher, apparently to great acclaim.

Charles Burney praised him for his expressive powers and Handel judged his sonatas opus 1 positively, but his playing didn’t meet with universal approval. His concerts in France were not really successful as a result of his Italian style of playing, and when an amateur violinist from Basle heard him play, he found his ornamentation excessive. He stated that Fritz sometimes lost his rhythm and accused him of lack of musical taste.

Fritz’s compositions are various in character and technical requirement. The sonatas opus 2 and even more so the sonatas opus 3 require considerable technical skills, whereas the trios opus 4 are far less demanding. The fact that the Sonatas opus 2 are set for either violin or transverse flute reflects the growing popularity of the flute at the time, especially among amateurs. Five of the six sonatas are in three movements – only Sonata III has four – and four follow the modern fashion of beginning with a slow movement. That is to say: three of those four opening movements are andantes, which are not meant to be really slow. Four sonatas end with variations on a chaconne bass.

In the programme notes Nicola Schneider writes: “The fourth sonata is very impressive, which in the first movement shows thematic echoes of the sonata in B minor for flute and harpsichord BWV 1030 by Johann Sebastian Bach”. Surprisingly she doesn’t mention the second movement of the Sonata I which begins with the same motif as the siciliana of Bach’s Sonata in E flat (BWV 1031).

The style of the sonatas can be described as galant which was one of the main fashions in music at the time. But, as already indicated, this doesn’t mean these sonatas are easy. One of the aspects which demands great skill is the ornamentation. Claire Genewein adds extensive cadenzas at the end of some movements. This seems to be in line with Fritz’s intentions: the adagio of the Sonata II contains a long cadenza written out by Fritz himself. There is a considerable amount of improvisation in these performances – the cadenzas are good examples of that. It is also part of the realisation of the basso continuo. Sometimes I feel the almost concertante style of playing the bass part is at the expense of the rhythmic support of the flautist.

It isn’t always easy here to distinguish between what exactly Fritz wrote down or indicated and what is the result of the performers’ decisions. One example is that some passages – in particular the last movements of the Sonatas II and IV – are played by the cello and the harpsichord without the flute. But I haven’t heard anything which crosses the line of what is stylistically conceivable.

I have really enjoyed listening to this disc. Fritz’s various musical ideas and melodic invention have resulted in a set of entertaining sonatas. With their creative and imaginative performances the three artists serve them well. This disc is a fine addition to the catalogue, and has made me curious about the rest of Fritz’s oeuvre.
Johan van Veen Sunday August 30th 2009

Der Barockkomponist Gasparo Fritz ist bis heute weitestgehend unbekannt, denn bereits zu seinen Lebzeiten war das kulturelle Klima seiner Heimatstadt Genf so träge, dass der Musiker und Komponist lediglich einige wenige Kontakte zum Ausland herstellen konnte. Umso erstaunlicher ist die Tatsache, dass inzwischen wieder zahlreiche Abschriften, besonders von den Sonatendrucken in den Bibliotheken größerer europäischer Städte ausfindig gemacht werden können.

Bei seiner steten Recherche nach vergessen Musikquellen des 17.–19. Jahrhunderts stieß das Ensemble L’Arcadia auf die Sammlung der Sechs Sonaten für Violine oder Traversflöte mit Basso continuo op. 2. Obwohl die Wahl des Soloinstruments im Titel offen gelassen wird, nehmen die Tonarten – alle ausschließlich Kreuztonarten – besondere Rücksicht auf die schwierige Intonation der Traversflöte. Doch nicht nur dieser Umstand ist ein auffälliges Indiz für Fritz’ Vorliebe für dieses Blasinstrument, sondern auch der sehr differenzierte Kompositionsstil zeugt von großer Kenntnis der Flötenliteratur seiner Zeitgenossen. Ein augenscheinliches Beispiel ist die Sonate Nr. 4 in e-Moll; übrigens das einzige Werk dieser Sammlung in einer Moll-Tonart. Das Kopfthema des ‘Andante’ weist geradezu plakativ Anlehnungen an die melodische Gestaltung des ersten Satzes von Bachs großartiger h-Moll-Sonate auf. Auch die beiden folgenden Sätze von Gasparo Fritz’ Sonate verstecken nur schwerlich das große Vorbild Bach, jedoch entwickelt Fritz durchaus wie auch in den anderen Sonaten seinen persönlichen Kompositionsstil, der sich in den prägnante Themen ausdrückt.

Leider wirken die sehr unterschiedlichen Anlagen von Melodiebildung und Satztechnik nur wenig eingängig, obwohl Fritz’ Stärke eben nicht in außergewöhnlichen Melodieeinfällen liegt, sondern alle Melodiethemen stets wiederholt oder leicht variiert dargebracht werden. Der fehlende Wiedererkennungswert dieser Musik mag auch in mangelnder Klangdifferenzierung in der Interpretation durch Claire Genewein, Traversflöte, Nicoleta Paraschivescu, Cembalo, und Maya Amrein, Cello, ihren Ursprung haben. Jedenfalls fehlt es besonders den mit reicher Ornamentik verzierten langsamen Sätzen an dynamischer Differenzierung. Dabei zeugt das Flötenspiel Geneweins von großer Feinfühligkeit, was an ihrem stets zarten und zugleich auch sehr klaren Flötenton deutlich wird. Umso mehr ist an vielen Stellen der Sonatensammlung ein luftigerer und zugleich voluminöserer, aber trotzdem scharf gestochener Klang wünschenswert. Dieser fehlt hörbar in der kompositorisch mitreißenden Sonate Nr. 5, welche erstaunliche Ähnlichkeiten – diesmal aber zu Bachs Sohn Carl Philipp und dessen äußerst empfindsamen Stil in seinen Flötenwerken aufweist. Obwohl Genewein über eine absolut einwandfreie Technik hinsichtlich Intonation und Fingerläufigkeit verfügt, mangelt es der Komposition deutlich an melodischer Richtung. Dieses fehlende Gefühl vermögen auch Cembalo und Cello nicht wiederherzustellen, weil deren Spiel zu wenig offensiv und bisweilen sogar erheblich unterrepräsentiert erscheint.

Die Musiker des Ensemble L’Arcadia geben zwar ein homogenes Klangbild ab. Dies täuscht aber nicht über den Umstand hinweg, dass ein undifferenzierter Eindruck hinsichtlich der Interpretation der Sonatensammlung entsteht. Obwohl solide Kenntnisse der Historischen Aufführungspraxis übermittelt werden, ist das Zusammenspiel des Ensembles kaum mitreißend. Dabei darf die kompositorische Leistung des vergessenen Komponisten Gasparo Fritz nicht in den Hintergrund treten und allein des schönen Repertoires wegen ist diese Aufnahme doch empfehlenswert.
Marion Beyer

KBAQ 89.5 Arizona USA

Link to CD of the Week on KBAQ 89.5 Arizona USA