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The Schultzen Sonatas: Barbara Heindlmeier breathes new life into forgotten Baroque recorder works

German recorder player and Baroque music specialist Barbara Heindlmeier has recently released a fascinating album of recorder sonatas by one A.H. Schultzen, an enigmatic composer of the German Baroque whose precise identity remains in dispute. Ms. Heindlmeier and her Ensemble La Ninfea have been instrumental in unearthing these gems of the Baroque recorder literature; their world-premiere recordings for the Raumklang label represent the fruits of months of diligent archival research and examination of contemporary historical sources. This investigative rigor has led not only to a significant contribution to the body of Baroque recorder works, but to the brilliantly executed and thoroughly delightful album that is now being enjoyed by recorder and Baroque music connoisseurs around the world - and to which EA contributor Elaine Fine gave her resounding endorsement in a recent review.

Barbara Heindlmeier

Her curiosity set alight by these newly discovered musical treasures, Ms. Fine, herself an avid recorder player and enthusiast, spoke at length with Heindlmeier following the Schultzen album release; their conversation provides insights on subjects ranging from Baroque performance practice to the impact of the ensemble’s research. 



Elaine Fine: I find your practice of using a few measures of the continuo as an introduction to several movements quite interesting.  Was this common practice during the 18th century?  Why did you decide to add these introductions?

Barbara Heindlmeier: The art of ‘preluding’ was not only common practice in the 18th century, but in the preceding period as well. Originally developed for warming up on the instrument/ in the key, the improvised material sometimes grew into a more formal introduction to the piece.  Treatises about preluding give proof to this very common and creative practice. In the Baroque era, we find evidence of the demand of improvising/ preluding in the musical theater, for example in Henry Purcell’s  Dioclesian: “sound all your instruments c fa ut,” indicating a prelude in C major. Even in the 20th century, musicians like Gieseking or Rachmaninov often began a performance by improvising and then moved on to the written piece.

In the Schultzen Sonatas there are also written introductions  in the continuo book as part of the sonata, for example in Sonata II or V in the first movement,  or in the recorder part, such as in Sonata I in the first movement. We decided to follow this inspiration by extending some of the written preludes or developing our own ones in other places to establish the key and atmosphere of the following piece.


Schultzen Sonatas


EF: I notice that you apply  flattement (finger vibrato) to some sustained notes. I usually associate that technique with French music of the 17th and 18th centuries. What are your thoughts regarding the application of  flattement  to this Italianate German music?

BH: Different vibrato techniques / trills with less than a diesis (i.e. employing a microtonal pitch interval) existed for a long time as a technique of ornamentation;  for example, finger vibrato for woodwinds can be found in Ganassi’s La Fontegara  (Venice, 1535), or in Bismantova’s Compendium Musicale (Ferrara, 1677).  In recorder tutor books from England (The Complete Flute Master; London 1695) and the Netherlands (Blanckenburgh, 1654) we find explanations how to produce a “Trammelant” or  “Sweetening” on certain notes with fingering charts that represent what we nowadays call flattement or finger vibrato. So the technique was also known before Hotteterre and outside of France, though it certainly played the most prominent role in France. From Mattheson we also learn that Hotteterre´s work, which is the most important from France concerning recorders, was circulated around Germany in the 18th century and therefore may have been known among German woodwind players as well. For the transverse flute the flattement technique is also discussed in Quantz´ Der Versuch einer Anweisung die Flute traversiere zu spielen (Berlin 1752) – and not only in paragraphs that were written about the French style.

In my personal opinion  trillo soave, sweetening, flattement or vibrato produced by breath are merely different means of vibrato - like a coloring finish you can add to special notes -and were common knowledge among woodwind players, as we can learn from widespread sources. To fulfill the principle of variato which Baroque music demands, I am convinced musicians were welcome to use all known techniques to serve the atmosphere and effect of the music they were playing. At least this is my idea for using all the vibrato techniques including flattement to ornament the sustained notes.


Ensemble La Ninfea


EF: Were you partially responsible for the presence of the Schultzen manuscript in the International Music Score Library Project?

BH: This is an interesting question: I am not 100% sure about that, but we ordered scans of the Schultzen print at the Bibliothèque national de France (BnF), a little time later the source was available through the “gallica site” of the Bnf (- for free and common use) and so it found its way to the Petrucci site, I guess. Now a lot of colleagues have access to the sonatas and will hopefully play them and spread them through the recorder and early music world.


EF:  Has this recording aroused interest from musicologists regarding Schultzen and his music? 

BH: There is some interest coming up from colleagues and musicologists, but the starting position with its limited knowledge is challenging – as I know from the research we did in preparing the booklet for the album.

We hope that we will hear more of Schultzen soon!


EF:  Do you have any clues from scholars regarding the possible identity of the anonymous composer of the Italianate viola da gamba sonatas? Also, for the benefit of readers who may not know how to tell Italian (or Italianate) music from German music, could you give a few guidelines?

BH: Indeed there are only few Sonatas for viol written explicitly in Italian style. The three recorded ones are closer connected to works by e. g. Vivaldi than for instance well-known pieces by G. Ph. Telemann or J. S. Bach, which represent the Vermischter Geschmack (mixed taste). This can be seen by the use of harmony - surprising moments are relatively rare and used in a distinct manner - and a stronger rhythmic flow. It is likely that a composer of Italian origin, more precisely from northern Italy, wrote these viol sonatas. So the authorship could perhaps be attributed to Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello, who was working at the Italy-orientated court in Stuttgart from 1716 on - but that’s pure speculation!


EF:  You use such a variety of articulations when playing the recorder. Could you talk about the use of the tongue as a vehicle for expression?

BH: In the Baroque era, vocal music is still the ideal of all music. Most books of instrumental pedagogy came into existence based on the premise that the best instruments are those which could most effectively imitate the human voice (we read that about the recorder, the viol, the cornet, the flute etc.). Also, the classical art of rhetoric was still very much common knowledge among composers and musicians.

The basis of vocal music is text, so I feel that my obligation as a recorder player performing Baroque music is to “speak” it; that means to produce nearly as many different sounding syllables as in spoken or sung language. Of course there are limitations to this aim, but it’s also an exciting challenge to seek this variety. In my opinion the recorder is predestined for vivid articulation because it reacts so directly, quickly and sensitively to it.

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