CD Review: No such thing as second-best in Christopher Palameta's sequel album of Janitsch chamber music
Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, Sonate da camera, Vol. II (ATMA)
Montreal period-performance oboist Christopher Palameta (who spent three seasons with Tafelmusik in the mid-2000s) and his wind-focused chamber ensemble Notturna are back with a second volume of Chamber Sonatas by German Baroque composer Johanan Gottlieb Janitsch.
As was the case for the first album, in 2009, this outing is a pleasure in the choice of music as well as the interpretations. (For full details of the album and audio samples, visit ATMA's website by clicking on the group's name at the top of this review.)
This may be Vol. II, but the musical material sounds like the pick of the crop. Four of the five pieces on the disc are world-premiere recordings.
Palameta and his consort perform with breathtaking elegance. One of the hallmarks of this music, most of which dates from Janitsch's later years (he lived from 1708 to 1763), is that the instruments need to blend with each other seamlessly -- which is not easy to achieve when you have the very different timbres of transverse flute, oboe d'amore, cello and harpsichord to combine.
All five of the sonatas collected here feature a mix of transverse flute, oboe and oboe d'amore over continuo. The three Sonate da camera were most likely written to be performed at the composer's weekly Friday salons at his home in Berlin, where he worked as one of the musicians in the Prussian court of Frederick the Great.
This is gorgeously crafted music, following a slow-fast-fast, three-movement form that was popular in Germany at the time. Notturno's careful work only serves to make the music more beautiful. Janitsch's craft becomes more impressive the more one listens.
The final two pieces are titled Sonate de chiesa, but were not meant to be performed in church. Unlike the typical Baroque Sonata de chiesa, which has four movements, these have three, with the middle movement a delicately executed fugue.
And if you're not really in a listening mood, the pieces make a fine, breezy backdrop for a summer's day.