Christoph Schaffrath: Duetto für zwei Violen da Gamba, Michael O’Loghlin (editor).

Christoph Schaffrath was harpsichordist for Frederick and Great and musician to the king’s sister, Princess Amalia. Composer of a number of orchestral works and keyboard sonatas, this duetto is one of his few surviving chamber works and is a fine - and rare - example of idiomatic gamba music from this early classical period. As stated in the highly informative introduction by Michael O’Loghlin (in English and German), it seems that this duetto was intended for performance by the king’s nephew Frederick William with virtuoso gambist Ludwig Christian Hesse. Each part has a distinct character, the upper featuring the singing melodic style with the lower requiring more agility in leaps and energetic passage work.

The music is a delightful example of the Berlin style, well-written for the viol and refreshingly creative in its exploitation of the viols special capabilities. It comprises three movements: a vigorous yet melodic Pocco Allegro, an Adagio with a sweetly singing top line strongly contrasted against an insistent second part, and more furious final Allegro full of rapid passage work. Amongst the small but quality body of works for the viol that Hesse inspired, contributed to by composers including Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Franz Benda, and Janitsch, this duetto is one of the most complex and interesting of the duo viol repertoire. Presenting considerable technical challenges, this is not a work to be approached by the faint of heart, but offers rich rewards to those who have the courage to tackle it.

This edition is another clearly presented offering from Edition Güntersberg, which has since 1998 specifically striven to broaden the available repertoire of the viol in an easily accessible format that remains nonetheless as faithful as possible to the sources. Their catalogue currently contains over 75 titles, concentrating in the main on German repertoire. As with all their editions, which are without exception based on an original manuscript or print, this Schaffrath edition is based on a single manuscript source in the Berlin State Library in the hand of Schaffrath. This manuscript also contains modifications such as fingerings, slurs, trills etc, which are overwritten by Hesse, and these are included in the edition. A facsimile reproduction of the original’s title page is included, showing clearly the original use of treble clefs in both parts (played an octave below pitch) which was common practice at the time.

Included in this edition is a lengthy introduction, score, parts in the original treble/bass clefs and additionally parts in alto/bass clefs. Ambiguous accidentals have been clarified in brackets, and sensible editorial articulation and dynamic markings added where these are inconsistent in the original. The layout is generally very clear, although the score could have benefited from the use of a slightly larger font if that were possible, as performance from the score is most useful practically, as well as being the way the original would have been performed. Personally I also found that the layout of the Adagio in the parts may have been a little easier to read if set on one page rather than spread out over two. These small comments aside, the presentation is clear, logical, pleasing to play from and contains no errors that I could detect, and would make an elegant addition to any serious violist's library.

Laura Vaughan,
Chelys Australis, volume 6, 2007