„Pisendel“ - the new album of Concerto Köln

Pisendel © Berlin Classics

Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755) impressed even during his lifetime with his highly virtuoso violin playing, and even today his work is considered a milestone in orchestral practice. Even though his compositional legacy is not exactly extensive, he was able to set standards in the Baroque era, especially as court conductor of the Dresden court orchestra. The lives of almost all the great names of the Baroque era crossed paths with his name. He had friendships with Bach, Vivaldi, Graupner and Telemann. He was trained by Torelli and Heinichen and, together with Hasse, brought the "Dresden Baroque" to its European-wide flowering. He never saw himself as a great composer, but much more as an interpretation specialist who was able to give decisive impulses to today's modern orchestral work through his orchestral education and his fine feeling for musical styles.

No wonder, then, that today's baroque specialists of the Concerto Köln ensemble naturally also see Pisendel as a role model. The baroque violinist Mayumi Hirasaki has been taking on the leading concertmaster role with Concerto Köln on and off for ten years now. In her historical role model Pisendel as leader of the Dresden court orchestra, she sees a "Perfect Concertmaster" (an allusion to Johann Mattheson's writing from 1739) . This is what this CD is meant to express: "It should be a programme that not only focuses on me as a violinist, but spreads the virtuosity of the whole orchestra. And what could be better suited than Pisendel's music for this baroque Dresden all-star band with all its stylistic versatility?"
The recording starts with a fanfare from unknown origins. "The listeners should feel our festive mood right from the start!" Mayumi Hirasaki explains this decision. This is immediately followed by the Concerto in D major with a magnificent wind instrumentation and additional timpani.

In the Sonata in C minor that follows, one senses the closeness and friendship with Johann Sebastian Bach and his son Wilhelm Friedemann. "Here Pisendel shows that, like his colleagues Heinichen and Jan Dismas Zelenka, he could compose in the contrapuntal style of Dresden church music" explains Mayumi Hirasaki in the booklet accompanying the recording.

In 1716, Pisendel met the composer Antonio Vivaldi in Venice. That is why Pisendel's melodic arrangement of the Concerto in B flat major is strongly reminiscent of the great Italian model. Concertmaster Hirasaki merely casts this piece in a very chamber-musical manner "Pisendel also had to make such decisions again and again as concertmaster. Here he leads the tutti violins in unison throughout; on the other hand, the viola part is very cleverly laid out."

The musicians of Concerto Köln approached the French piece "Imitation des Caracteres de la Danse" in a very special way: They first attended a baroque dance course together. "You play this music in a different way when you can also physically feel the different dance characters" explains Hirasaki. "In addition, we used the bowing position in the underhand grip, which was common in France at that time."

This is followed by the Concerto in E-flat major, in which, to the delight of the musicians, many handwritten notes by Pisendel himself were to be found, as well as the Sinfonia in B-flat major - again with magnificent wind instruments. The album ends with the Sonata in D major, which unmistakably closes the circle to the opening of the album.

Mayumi Hirasaki and Concerto Köln have succeeded with this recording in producing an accomplished virtuoso selection of the characterful greatness of Pisendel's music.

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