With this first project for Zig-Zag Territories, the musicians of the Canadian ensemble Masques under the direction of the harpsichordist Olivier Fortin demonstrate their passion for the music of the Austrian Baroque composer Johann Heinrich Schmelzer.

Like most of his contemporaries (Biber, Walther, Sances), Schmelzer gives music a dual purpose: ‘Music is a pleasure for the saints and for men; it is an act of devotion, but also a symbol of human virtue.’ His collection Sacro-profanus concentus musicus is a masterly illustration of this credo. Ensemble Masques – formed of a core of six instrumentalists specialising in Baroque music – offers us sonatas for five and six instruments from this collection, alternating with character pieces like Die Fechtschule (an evocation of battle), Die Polnische Sackpfeiffe, and the famous Lamento sopra il morte Ferdinandi III. This varied programme highlights the diversity and the Italian inspiration of Schmelzer’s music.

 

Schmelzer made substantial contributions to the development of sonata and suite forms:

Biber was a pupil of Schmelzer:

  

Influenced by the work of Schmelzer, Walther, with Westhoff and Biber, was one of the most significant violinists of Germany on the seventeenth century:

Johann Paul von Westhoff: another famous violinist of the time and one of the first to have composed for solo violin. His six partitas for solo violin inspired Bach's famous violin sonatas and partitas:

  

GRAMOPHONE Editor's Choice award Choc Classica award Klara 10 award