The Emperor s Fiddler
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Johann Heinrich Schmelzer was a leading violin virtuoso in mid-seventeenth-century Europe, highly favoured by Holy Roman Emperors Ferdinand III and Leopold I. His six Sonatæ unarum fidium (Sonatas for one fiddle) take pride of place in the history of violin music as the earliest collection of sonatas published by a native German-speaking composer, in 1664. These works cover the full gamut of emotions, from extreme passions and extravagant virtuosity to the most intimate and profound expressions of poetic introspection, with elegant dances inserted for good measure. Schmelzer likely played violins made by Jacob Stainer, the most celebrated luthier in Europe, whose violins were renowned for their fine silvery tone and long considered superior to Cremonese models. Here the sonatas are performed on a replica of a c.1670 Stainer violin, with strings in equal tension; the bow is based on seventeenth-century designs and is short and light, with its hair at high tension. This disc explores the lavish soundworld and rich musical invention of the emperor s fiddler.
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