Innovative sonatas from the byways of 17th-century Germany

Capella Jenensis: Oswald

The Strad Issue: February 2024

Description: Innovative sonatas from the byways of 17th-century Germany

Musicians: Capella Jenensis

Works: Oswald: Sonatas

Catalogue number: CPO 555478-2

In its endeavours to rediscover and promote the rich Thuringian musical heritage, Capella Jenensis gives persuasive performances of 12 of the 18 surviving sonatas for two to four soloists and continuo by Andreas Oswald (1634–65). These progressive works comprise various short sections, some of which verge on the bizarre; especially notable are the Sonata à violino solo in E minor, expressively dispatched by violinist Claudia Mende, and the Sonata à 2 in A minor, in which violinist Alfia Bakieva nurtures its chromatic harmonies and eloquently negotiates its contrasting tempos and affects.

There is virtuoso dialogue and fantasy a-plenty, not only from the string players but also from Carl-Philipp Kaptain (sackbut) and Claudius Kamp (dulcian), whose beguiling contributions include quasi-martial motifs, as in the Sonata à 3 in F major’s Allegro sections and near the end of the Sonata à 3 in C major. Folk elements also abound, notably in numerous dance-influenced sections and in the use of scordatura violin in the Sonata ò verò Aria à 2.

Continuo support, shared appropriately between organ, harpsichord, theorbo, Baroque guitar and violone, adds to the kaleidoscope of instrumental colours, Petra Burmann’s guitar especially providing rhythmic impetus in the Sonata à 3 in D. Despite the generous acoustic, Gertrude Ohse’s gamba is too often overwhelmed in the balance.