Thomas Indermuhle / Claudio Brizi

Johann Ludwig Krebs, Sonate da Camera

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Recorded in Italy by European musicians but released in Japan, this disc would be unusual in any language or locale. The music is by Johann Ludwig Krebs, an underrated composer of the middle eighteenth century who was a student of J.S. Bach. Notes are in Japanese and English, and apparently they're different, not simply translated from one to the other. Krebs struggled along as a poorly paid organist in an age in which the instrument was in decline, but he also wrote a small amount of chamber music including the Sonate da camera, really more like suites, recorded here. They were published in Leipzig in 1762. The English notes compare Krebs to his famous teacher and to Bach's sons, but in the rather cockeyed mix of elements the sonatas contain -- a careful double fugue bumps up against a buzzing, partly unison "polonoise" -- they are more reminiscent of Telemann, if anybody. Unusual and diverting as the music may be, the most bizarre element here is the performance by oboist Thomas Indermühle and keyboardist Claudio Brizi, with Brizi playing the rarely heard claviorgan. This contraption is closer to a mixture of a harpsichord and an organ than the clavichord-organ combo the name might suggest. There are a few other recordings featuring the claviorgan, but to hear it as a continuo instrument is very rare. Needless to say, adding organ registrations to the music unexpectedly changes the relationship between the solo instrument and the continuo, and Brizi maximizes the surprises inherent in this setup. This may well be the first Japanese recording to feature the claviorgan, and it was recorded in an apparently medieval Italian church hall that has insanely live acoustics. These only magnify the unusual textures emerging from the instruments on hand, and the Japanese engineers, perhaps with the intention of heightening the unfamiliar effect for home audiences, push the high end to a point where each track has noticeable background noise before the music starts. Probably delightful for most, this recording also qualifies as bizarre.

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