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Baroque keyboard composers


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This is a thread to discuss the lesser-known baroque keyboard composers, such as Frescobaldi, Georg Muffat, Johann Kaspar Kerll, Johann Kaspar Fischer, their styles and works, etc.

Just to get the thread started, right now I'm interested in the Kerll toccatas, they seem to have a loose improvisatory style and are quite virtuosic keyboard pieces. Anyone familiar with these?

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Kerrl Toccatas.... no, I haven't seen them yet, although they sound fantastic. Do you think they'd work on the harpsichord as well as organ?

In fact, I haven't been able to get a hold of any of Kerll's keyboard works. How would you compare Kerll's style to Froberger and Fischer? Froberger, Fischer, and Kerll were the fantastic triad of early 17th century composers; I hope to own and play all their works someday. And they were all taught by Frescobaldi.

All these composers seeme to have learned the toccata idea... they updated Frescobaldi's textures and made them more regular, German. But many of Frescobaldi's creative ideas were lost in the process. One day I'd like to write toccatas updated to more modern textures, but with the same (or better) dazzling Frescobaldean rhythms and harmonies.

Froberger took the toccata and made it a very rhythmically free harmonic texture, with running passages like Frescobaldi and bits in the lute style. Extensive fugues were sometimes inserted. Either way, his toccatas aren't as erratic as Frescobaldi's.

As for Fischer, his works tend towards the more monumental, I think. I've only heard a d-minor passacaglia, which could rival the famous Bach passacaglia. Fischer seems to begin the Pachelbel tradition of musical clarity and light virtuosism, the opposite of Froberger's ideal.

As for Kerll, I have only read articles... I really want to hear some, to compare. Have you seen Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music | Vol. 3 No. 1 | Review, it seems interesting. I didn't know Bach's toccatas might have been influenced by Kerrl; I heard they were based off Frescobaldi (though there is little similarity).

Now other early composers of a slightly earlier generation are Sweelinck's students: Scheidt, Scheidemann, J. Praetorius (not related to Michael), Duben, Hass, etc... I haven't been able to get a hold of a single one of their pieces. They started the north German tradition, so their music should be between Sweelick and Buxtehude. Buxtehude, however, was also strongly affected by Froberger.

Most of the music I like comes down from those two great intellectual lineages, Frescobaldi and Sweelinck.

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Kerll toccatas i've only heard superficially and although they strike on first listen as improvisatory virtuosic keyboard pieces there is a certain motivic control in section which makes them very German School. Where there are not flowing passages of fast virtuosism there is reworking of motives in the most baroque fashiion ie the "Affect". Thry are worth looking itno for the sake of German Kaybooard music.In simple terms Kerll's style as opposed to other reginoal contemporaries seems much more virtuosic and temporary but what strikes me is obviously this guy was trained in composition as well as interpretation.

Indeed most of the composers of the era seem to have absorved the toccata idea therefore an improvisatory stye (a lost art in our days!!!). One taht deserves serious, serious, looking into, Is Fischer, not for his outputas much as for the details of his technique or pratcice.

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Frescbaldo, although he was a brillliant intellect of this practoce, does not attact me much as the Sweelinch School (Buxtehude Primarlily). Instrument inof choice included. The practice of organism, prtociularities of composition, as well as intertpretative customs, are one of a kiid in thos Northern SChool of orgel/

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yep, the whole north/south thing really splits up the great 17th century styles.

Speaking of the North, recently I have been very interested in one Northern composer: Matthias Weckmann. I heard a bit of a toccata by him, in e minor I think, that begins with these fantastic lightning speed arpeggios. He dueled with Froberger at one point, on the organ, and apparently Weckmann won (Froberger, why didn't you demand a harpsichord instead? :whistling: ). Of course modern musicians don't care about Weckmann besides his being a Bach-predecessor, but I, on the other hand, think his music is equal in its own right.

Ever since you mentioned the southern/northern differentialtion, I researched more into it, using the small resouces the internet has to offer. I found a website mentioning that according to Mattheson, the fast sections in Froberger's toccatas were the purest examples of the stylus phantasticus. (I would like to get a copy of Mattheson's Kapelmeister manual myself, but I'm not sure if there are translations.) So apparently (I didn't know this) stylus phantasticus was not a purely northern or southern concept.

And looking through the music more carefully, and finding more tidbits off the internet, I think I understand now the true difference between the Northern and Southern 17th century composers, who I think were all more inspired and extroverted in music than Bach. It all goes back to the vocal music. Looking back at Sweelinck's vocal music and organ contrapunctal style, I see the sort of textural ideas reminiscient of the great sacred vocal music of the times. The number of voices remains strictly constant, the immitation is varied, dramatic effects like echoes and other neat textures really give the Northern music a very majestic and powerful quality.

The Southern composers, on the other hand, came from Frescobaldi, whose toccatas were based off of madrigal style. Thus they are wilder, trying to express emotions with word-painting (without the words). They lack the grandeur or power of the northern works and can be a bit sloppy, but at the same time can be more adventurous rhythmically and harmonically. Of course, this might be an odd way of generalizing the roots of the styles, but looking at the southern music's roots in madrigals and the northern music's roots in cantatas made the difference for me.

Unfortunately, I don't think Bach thouroughly recovered the two great rivers of style above and below him. As much as historians point out the "influence" Buxtehude or Froberger had on Bach, clearly nobody would mistake a Bach fugue for a Buxtehude prelude or a Bach suite for a Froberger suite.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 months later...

A little while ago I posted a small section of a hypothetical toccata in the stylus phantasticus of the North German School, like those of Buxtehude, Bruhns, etc... It's in the Buxtehude thread.

Now recently I have composed a small toccata fragment for harpsichord in the South German style, based off of Froberger's unique toccata openings. Since it is so short I am posting it here instead of the piano section. I might make it the prelude of my suite.

Praeludium a-moll - eSnips, share anything

If I were to attach lightning fast imitative sections with more scale passages like the above, I would have a full Frobergerian toccata......

....I might actually do that.

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Oh yeah. Johan Helmich Roman, also known as the Swedish Handel, or the father of Swedish music. I wouldn't be a proper Swede if I hadn't heard of him. :whistling:

Undoubtedly nice, much of it, as far as galant music goes. His larger, later and more famous works--like the Drottningholm Music (above all!), Then Swenska Messan, and Sjukmans Musiquen--are mostly pretty great and quite recommendable. Among the lesser works I'm mostly acquainted with the keyboard sonatas, which are neat in a quaint sort of way. I haven't really listened to the violin Assaggi, though. I ought to, some day.

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