Christopher Wilke

Christopher Wilke: Graceful Degradation

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Product Type: CD

Artist: Christopher Wilke
Title: Graceful Degradation
Product Type: COMPACT DISCS

Track listing and album notes: Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783): Sonata in E-flat Major* 1. Allegro 2. Moderato 3. Presto Paulo Carlo Durant (active c.1745-1769) 4. Fantasie 5. Fuga attr. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Divertimento in G Major* 6. Andantino 7. Allegro 8. Minuets 9. Amorevole 10. Finale, allegro assai Anonymous ('Rosani' Lutebook): Sonata in D minor* 11. Fantasie 12. Allegro 13. Affetuoso 14. Scherzando 15. Minuet con variazione 16. Polaca Jakob Friedrich Kleinknecht (1722-1794): Sonata in B-flat Major 17. Allegro moderato e grazioso 18. Andante ma graziosamente 19. Tempo giusto * First recording Graceful Degradation: The ability of a device or machine to maintain functionality in spite of massive systemic trauma. 'Every musician has a thousand parts to play, a thousand characters to assume at the composer's bidding.'- Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, 1749. In light of the drastic and nearly unprecedented changes in compositional style that took place around the middle of the 18th century, lute players must have felt torn in nearly as many directions as Marpurg discusses. Almost overnight, the fairly unified style of the baroque was fragmented into various streams. While the severe old style, predicated on the practices of vocal polyphony or stereotyped dances, was to persist for a while longer, it's hegemony was ultimately overthrown by a light populist style inspired by Italian comédie opera, which eventually was called 'Classical.' With the waning influence of the Ancien Régime and the concomitant rise of bourgeois sensibilities, the former King of Instruments, which had been structurally adapted for the old style ever since the Renaissance, was suddenly unfashionable by association. It was doubly unfortunate that the 'simple' new style was deceptively arduous to realize on the lute, thus making it's repertoire the sole province of skilled professionals in an age that valued at-home amateur performance. It is therefore amazing to find that some of the lute's greatest masterworks come from this final, unstable period. Caught between Scylla and Charybdis, many members of the last generation of lutenists turned to an alternative aesthetic movement: the avant-garde Empfindsamer Stil. (In English, this is often literally, yet misleadingly, translated as 'sensitive style,' but this sadly flaccid term fails to capture the dynamic nature of the movement. 18th century writers, such as Dr. Charles Burney called it, more % accurately, the 'expressive style.') Proponents of this precursor to Romanticism made textless musk from raw emotion and sudden contrasts of mood: a first in the history of music. So strange did this seem to contemporaries that in 1775, Dr. Burney wrote that C.P.E. Bach's works in the style were intended for 'another century, when what is now thought difficult and far-fetched, will, perhaps, be familiar and natural.' That lutenists would gravitate toward such an intricate manner of composing is not surprising; it allowed them to indulge in the instrument's ability to manipulate subtle variations of timbre and dynamic nuance, which was far more refined than contemporary keyboard instruments, including the then-new piano. A close relationship with the keyboard is illustrated by the fact that the works by Hasse and Haydn included here are transcriptions of Klavier works done by anonymous 18th century musicians. Despite considerable technical demands arising from the change of medium, both make for very idiomatic-sounding lute works. The first movement of the Sonata in E-flat by Hasse, with it's abrupt juxtapositions of registers, dynamics and textures, even seems to benefit from the lute's rich palette of tone colors. It may at first seem surprising to find Hasse, an 18th century megastar who made his name in the ultra-competitive world of highbrow opera seria, embracing the miniature subtleties of Empfindsamkeit. On reflection, however, the work is really an ultra-condensed instrumental opera, complete with an exposition of characters, conflict and resolution - all in absolutely correct sonata-allegro form! In contrast to the idiosyncratic approach of Hasse, the Divertimento in G Major attributed to Haydn exemplifies the clarity and directness of classicism. In his 1984 essay, 'Haydn's Music for Lute,' scholar Tim Crawford noted it's very Haydnesque 'wit and refinement,' concluding that, 'certainly, this is a work worth reviving.' (After nearly thirty years, this is the first recording.) Although no other source for Kleinknecht's Sonata in B-flat has yet been found, since the composer was not known as a lutenist, the piece may also have been originally intended for another instrument. If so, the surviving score is the work of an incredibly deft arranger because the end product fits perfectly on the lute fingerboard. This is especially gratifying in the poignant second movement, which expounds a heartrending sequence of intense emotions in true Empfindsamer style. The Durant A-minor pieces and the Anonymous Sonata in D-minor from the Rosani Lute Book each find ways to accommodate both old and new. While Durant wrote in antiquated forms, he remained au courant by imbuing his work with a robust large-scale dramatic sweep clearly drawn from the theatre. As if symbolically demonstrating the transition from past to future, the Fantasie of the anonymous sonata begins by quoting a passage from a prelude by Sylvius Leopold Weiss (D-DI2841, p.25) before veering off onto an independent trajectory. The other movements were evidently composed using a nearly identical pre-arranged harmonic template. That this process never sounds dull or predictable is evidence of the unknown author's compositional skill. As was the expected practice in the 18th century, I have provided improvised cadenzas at appropriate points in several movements, utilizing other period examples and written descriptions as models. Souces: Leipzig Ms. III.11,46.c (Hasse), Brussels Ms. II 4086 (Durant) Augsburg Ms. Tonkunst 2 Fasikel III (Haydn and Kleinknecht) and Leipzig 111.11.64 (Anonymous). Special thanks to my lovely wife Sarah, my parents, and Dominic and Victoria, for their love and support. Sincere thanks go out also to the backers on Kickstarter.com who helped to make this project possible through their generosity. Recorded and engineered by Marc Webster at Blue on Blue Studio, Rochester, NY. 13-course lute with triple pegbox extension after Martin Leopold Widhalm and Andreas Jauck, 1755 made by Grant Tomlinson in Vancouver, BC. ©2013 Christopher Wilke. All rights reserved. About Christopher Wilke: 'A master of several instruments.' - Janelle Gelfand, The Cincinnati Enquirer 'The sound Wilke produces from his instrument is absolutely gorgeous... Wilke plays with an expert feel for this style." - American Record Guide 'Wilke plays with conviction, sensitivity, and a warm, singing tone.' - Howard Posner, The Lute Society of America Quarterly 'The young American, Christopher Wilke, thrilled the audience... Wilke's nuanced, meditative and emotionally intense presentation was met with rapturous approval, contrasting markedly with the otherwise still tranquility of the hall.' - Allgauer Zeitung (Germany) Lutenist Christopher Wilke received his doctorate in historical plucked string instruments (lute, theorbo, baroque and 19th century guitars) from the Eastman School of Music, where he was a student of Paul O'Dette. Recent performances include the Boston Early Music Festival, for the Lute Society of America and at the European Lute Festival. A scholar as well as a performer, he has lectured on musicological topics at the University of Cincinnati and Stony Brook University. He has been invited to present at the Guitar Foundation of America's Convention and the American Musicological Society's Annual Meeting in 2013. His special interest is in reviving forgotten gems of past eras, with a particular focus on music composed during times of exciting change and transition. He has h

Tracks:
1.1 Sonata in E-Flat: I. Allegro
1.2 Sonata in E-Flat: II. Moderato
1.3 Sonata in E-Flat: III. Presto
1.4 Sonata in A minor: I. Fantasie
1.5 Sonata in A minor: II. Fuga
1.6 Divertimento in G: I. Andantino
1.7 Divertimento in G: II. Allegro
1.8 Divertimento in G: III. Minuet 1 ; 2
1.9 Divertimento in G: IV. Amorevole
1.10 Divertimento in G: V. Finale, Allegro Assai
1.11 Sonata in D minor: I. Fantasie
1.12 Sonata in D minor: II. Allegro
1.13 Sonata in D minor: III. Affetuoso
1.14 Sonata in D minor: IV. Scherzando
1.15 Sonata in D minor: V. Minuet Con Variazione
1.16 Sonata in D minor: VI. Polaca
1.17 Sonata in B-Flat: I. Allegro Moderato E Grazioso
1.18 Sonata in B-Flat: II. Andante Ma Graziosamente
1.19 Sonata in B-Flat: III. Tempo Giusto

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