Review By Loewen, American Record Guide,October 2006
This includes 11 lovely sonatas and chaconnes by German, Austrian, and Italian composers of the early baroque. The best-known among them is Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c 1623�80). violinist at the imperial court of Vienna. He served as vice-kapellmeister there and then kapellmeister after the death of Giovanni Felice Sances in 1679. Schmelzer's sonatas have undergone a recent revival in the hands of several very fine musicians who specialize in the music of the period. Noteworthy among them are Romanesca (Harmonia Mundi 907143, March/April 1997) and Holloway (Musicaphon 56832, Jan/Feb 2001). The works of Antonio Bertali (1605-69), a predecessor of Schmelzer's, have also been well received by critics through recordings by the Freiburg Baroque (Carus 83303, March/April 2002) and
Samuel Capricornus (1628-65) was one of the most prolific composers of his time, but most of his secular music is no longer extant. He briefly served at the imperial court with Bertali before moving on to the post of kapellmeister to the Wurttemberg court at Stuttgart. Johann Michael Nicolai (1629-85) and Adam Drese (c. 1620-1701) were both Thuringian viol players and composers whose careers were in service to nobility in Weimar, Jena, Brandenburg, and Arnstadt. Drese's residency in Arn�stadt, beginning 1678, brought him into contact with the Bach family. The program ends with a chaconne by Nathanael Schnittelbach (1633-67), who served as civic musician at Lubeck and, despite his short career, became one of the most renowned violin virtuosos of his day.
All of the sonatas and chaconnes are for violin(s) and continuo, which includes various configurations of dulcian, viola da gamba, double harp, harpsichord, and organ. The rhapsodic character of this music strongly reflects these composers' taste for the stile moderno. It is highly ornamental and dramatic. Each work is through-composed, not like the several-movement sonatas one finds in the high baroque (Corelli, for example). They are multi-sectional pieces that shift without pause from one passage to another. Each passage is distinguished by a new tempo, melody, and style of ornamentation.
One will note some interesting repetition on this recording. Bertali's Sonata in G for two violins and bassoon and Schnittelbach's Ciaconna in A for violin both use a descending tetrachord (four-note ground). Simple as they are, I never tire of these seemingly endless sequences of variations. It must result from composers' genius for invention and performers' sensitive ornamentation. The Ciaconna by Schnittelbach brings the recording to a delicate conclusion. The light, wistful performance of this virtuosic piece offers a pleasant contrast to the robust performance of the Bertali sonata. This is the first recording of Schnittelbach's music that I am aware of. What a pleasant surprise that was!
This is a brilliant recording- very strong playing of subtlety and virtuosity. And this is not limited to the violinists Martin Jopp and J�rn Sebastian Kuhlmann. Rainer Johannsen's dulcian playing is intense and quite supple. The continuo playing of the pluckers, viol, and keyboard players furnish a sound foundation for the dazzling display going on above them.
Review By Brian Burtt, MusicWeb International,August 2006
The Ensemble Echo du Danube seem committed and capable performers. They manage to sound larger than their small number - seven musicians, most of whom do not play on all tracks. In fact, despite consisting of a viola da gamba, a theorbo, a dulcian (a what? turns out to be a predecessor to the bassoon), along with violin, double harp, organ and harpsichord, the group manages a full, even modern sound. Modern performance technique on historical instruments, to invert the equation of such groups as Orchestre R�volutionnaire et Romantique?