Stylus Phantasticus

Johann Adam Reincken: Hortus Musicus, Vol. 1

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Johann Adam Reincken was a composer based in Hamburg during Bach's youth. The story of Bach's long journey on foot to hear Dietrich Buxtehude play the organ is well known; not so well known is that Bach walked to hear Reincken, too. This release by the multinational historical-instrument group Hortus Musicus draws on recent research showing that Reincken, much of whose music has not survived, was a major stylistic influence on the young Bach, and you can hear it in the four partitas or suites presented here. Reincken's ability to combine contrapuntal art with new French and Italian forms may have impressed Bach, and there are several more specific signs of contact. In place of the Corelli-style harmonic sequence Reincken tends to use what the notes (in English, French, and German) call a harmonic ostinato with several simultaneous pedal points. This is both more complex and more dynamic; a good example is heard in the Allemand Allegro (track 7) of the Partita No. 2 in B flat major. The final gigues, too, are fugal or heavily contrapuntal in the Bach manner. Each suite begins with an ambitious two-section movement (slow and fast) marked "Sonata," and the entire effect is unlike either Italian music or the French suites of the day. The small string ensemble Hortus Musicus is accompanied by either a harpsichord or an organ, and even in the former case the group's long notes and quiet, deliberate style make them sound a bit like an organ anyway. Probably of most interest to Bach enthusiasts and students of German Baroque, this release is also attractive for general listeners.

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