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ClassicsOnline Home » FISCHER: Musical Parnassus, Vol. 2
By David Hurwitz
"Luc Beauséjour's appealing traversal of Johann Casper Ferdinand Fischer's Musical Parnassus concludes with the final three of its nine suites, each dedicated to one of the muses. The last suite, Uranie, is certainly the most ambitious: nine movements that conclude with an imposing passacaglia of considerable weight.The eighth suite (Polymnia) introduces a lightly programmatic touch as well: a jaunty march introduces a battle (Combattement), followed by a sprightly 'Air des triomphans.'The music really does have an unpretentious charm, characteristics that apply equally to the two suites from Fischer's Little Musical Bouquet of Flowers that round out this attractive disc.As in the first volume, Naxos has captured Beauséjour's lively playing and the sound of the harpsichord with natural brilliance and minimal mechanical noise. Anyone investigating the highways and byways of Baroque keyboard music will enjoy Fischer's contributions. Now how about his Ariadne musica, the almost legendary collection of preludes and fugues that may have inspired Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier?"
Ferdinand Fischer (c.1670-1746)
Musical Parnassus Val.
2: Suites 7-9
Blumen-Büschlein, Op. 2: Suites 2 and 8
Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer's date and origin of birth is shrouded
in mystery, for the mention of his name initially surfaces in connection with
the birth of his first child in 1692 at Schlackenwerth, Bohemia. The first
record of his professional standing appears three years later on the title page
of his Opus 1, Le journal du printems, which mentions him as Hofkapellmeister
to Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden, to whom the work is dedicated. Fischer
then served under his successor and son, Ludwig Georg, staying on with the
ruling family of Baden, whose court life was strongly permeated by French
culture, until his death in 1746.
Fischer left a relatively small body of works, but their importance,
particularly in the development of the German orchestral and keyboard suite, is
fundamental. Along with other German composers active in the late seventeenth
century, such as J.S. Kusser and Georg Muffat, he was instrumental in
effectively bringing about the fusion of the French style inherited from Lully
with the German 'classical' dance suite, thus giving rise to the so-called
'overture-suite' as exemplified in his set of orchestral suites, Le journal
du printems (1695). Fischer was among the first to have carried over the
French orchestral ballet suite to the keyboard in his Pièces de clavessin (1696,
republished in 1698 as Musicalisches Blumen-Büschlein). Although these
suites abandon the French overture in favour of preludes that closely espouse
keyboard technique, they do retain the freer ordering and choice of dance types
characteristic of the new Lullian orchestral suite, instead of adhering solely
to the 'classical' core of dances, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, (Gigue),
which has often been considered as one of the German composer J.J.
Froberger's bequests. In the two suites from Blumen-Büschlein recorded
here, witness the idiomatic nature of the preludes, No. 2 being entirely
chordal (closely resembling those from the later Musicalischer Parnassus's suites
4, 7 and 9), and No. 8 presenting a very rhapsodic, toccata-like outline. The
variety of dances in Suite No. 2 perfectly illustrates the new French
influence, whereas Suite No. 8 is rather exceptional as it consists of a single
Chaconne following the prelude.
It took another forty years before Fischer would issue his second and
final set of keyboard suites. Published in Augsburg in 1738, his Musicalischer
Parnassus comprises nine dance suites, each named after one of the Muses.
The collection is dedicated to Ludwig Georg's daughter, Elisabetha Augusta
Francisca. The present recording includes the last three suites of the set: Terpsichore
(Muse of dance and choral song), in G minor; Polymnia (Muse of
sacred poetry and song), in D major; and Uranie (Muse of astronomy), in
D minor. Admittedly, nothing in the music recalls the qualities of the Muses;
indeed, most of the music is unprogrammatic, if one is to except the inclusion
in Uranie of a Marche, Combattement and Air des Triomphans, which
recall the battle music of Suite No. 1 from the Journal du printems.
As in the older harpsichord set, Parnassus mostly eschews the
'Froberger form' of core dances, except in Uranie and Suite No. 1,
opting rather for a rich mix of fashionable French dances, rondeaus and
chaconnes; and, once again, idiomatic keyboard preludes prevail. Fischer also
notably employs to lovely effect the typical harpsichord feature of style
brisé (or arpeggiated, broken-chord style), borrowed from the French
lutenists, in the second Menuets from each of the three last suites. In Menuet
2 from Terpsichore, the use of the lute stop further enhances the
stylistic roots of the piece.
Otherwise, the pieces display an orchestral texture transferred to the
keyboard, albeit quite straightforwardly, where one could fancy hearing
interplay between different instrumental groups, as in the grand Passacaglia
which ends Uranie. In addition, the three paired minuets in this
selection (there are six in the entire set) offer slightly contrasting second
minuets that act in effect as trios, with the first minuet then
repeated. Instances of imitative counterpoint can be heard in the entries to
the Gigues of Suites 7 and 9, reminiscent of Froberger's keyboard
gigues. The melodic range and almost lyrical qualities of certain pieces, such
as the Allemande from Suite No. 9, betray an Italian influence that
contributes to set Parnassus off from the earlier harpsichord set.
Fischer was cited by C.P.E. Bach to Forkel among the handful of
composers who had influenced his father as a youth. While Fischer's set of
twenty preludes and fugues, Ariadne musica (1702), was certainly the
most important forerunner to Bach's Forty-eight, it is not improbable
that Fischer's late-seventeenth-century orchestral and keyboard suites made an
impression on Bach's later handling of these genres. Even though Fischer's Parnassus
was published some twenty years after Bach's great keyboard suites were
composed, it ought not be compared too harshly against those masterpieces, for
it demonstrates in its own right a keen sense of elegance and style
Furthermore, it is simply engaging music.
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FISCHER: Musical Parnassus, Vol. 2