A.H. Schultzen (1682-1762): Recorder Sonatas / Ensemble la Ninfea, Barbara Heindlmeier, recorder


The music of A.H. Schultzen (1681-1742) is a relatively new and exciting addition to the 18th-century recorder literature. Schultzen's music first came to light in a 2001 article in the Journal of the American Recorder Society. A contemporary and compatriot of J.S. Bach and G.P. Telemann, Schultzen wrote difficult, brilliant, and progressive Italianate music for the recorder. The present album, released in 2015 on the German Raumklang label, intersperses six of the composer’s recorder sonatas with three anonymous viola da gamba sonatas of apparently similar provenance; these performances by recorder player Barbara Heindlmeier and the period instrument ensemble La Ninfea represent the first appearance of this repertoire on disc.

The sonatas’ original publication, made by the Amsterdam firm of Roger in 1703, may be found in the online archives of the International Music Score Library Project. The score indicates that these pieces were intended for recorder with harpsichord and bassoon continuo. For the present recording, the musicians of La Ninfea use a continuo of harpsichord, viola da gamba, theorbo, and organ in various combinations. The performers occasionally depart from the score by adding several measures of introduction derived from the continuo, which I find very appropriate and effective, particularly in Sonata No. 3. The delicate interplay between soloist and continuo reaches a height of expressiveness in the Grave of this sonata, wherein the organ’s right hand performs a sort of slow, intimate dance with the ornamented recorder part, embellishing and impelling the melodic line. The ensemble performs the G minor Sonata with harpsichord and theorbo for most of the movements, but for the Largo, which is a beautiful Chaconne, the recorder is accompanied by lute alone.

The viola da gamba sonatas that comprise the remainder of this disc were found in the family library of the crown prince of Württemberg (the music is now in the library of the University of Rostock). Again, these musicians make excellent continuo choices, sometimes using another viola da gamba to reinforce the bass line, and sometimes using lute. It’s difficult to tell if these anonymous pieces may have been written by the same composer, but I find the A minor sonata particularly distinctive.

La Ninfea, based in Bremen, Germany, is an extremely expressive group of musicians. Barbara Heindlmeier has a lovely sound and extraordinary articulation which she uses to meet the considerable demands of this music. Her ornamentation is marvelous, and I appreciate the way she occasionally uses finger vibrato on sustained notes. She and the viola da gambists play their solo parts with whimsy and taste, and the continuo playing is solid, yet light and flowing. All the instruments are modern copies of 18th-century instruments, and all the music is pitched at A=415.

C.F. Abel - Sonata II: 3. Presto / Ensemble La Ninfea