Recording date: October 15, 16, & 17 2009
Recorded at the Old Catholic Church in Delft
Recording, editing and mastering: Jos Boerland
Cover: Model of the citadel of Jülich, 1802, Musée des plans-reliefs Paris
Design: Jos Boerland
Music from the Court of Johann Wilhelm van der Pfalz, duke of Jülich-Berg
Johann Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg was born April 19, 1658 in Düsseldorf. His grandfather, Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, was given the important dukedom of Jülich-Berg at the beginning of the 17th century. His father, Philipp Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, ensured a complete education for his son, who even at an early age showed a significant interest in the arts. Music and fine arts became Johann Wilhelm's dominant passions. He married archduchess Maria Anna Josepha of Austria in 1678, which gained him access to the rich musical culture of the Emperor's court. On August 1, 1679, he became the regent of the dukedom of Jülich-Berg with capitals in both Jülich and Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf was the focal point of his reign; he helped develop it to become a center for art and culture.
After the death of his first wife in 1689, Johann Wilhelm married Anna Maria Luisa de Medici in 1691. After the death of his father in 1690 he became the Elector of Pfalz and one of the distinguished leaders of his era. Johann Wilhelm shared his passion for art and music with his new wife. The opera performances during Carnival in Düsseldorf in the years following 1690 became legendary. The court orchestra, which Johann Wilhelm formed, could compete with Imperial standards, and was admired by contemporaries in 1711 at the Imperial Election in Frankfurt. In the words of a guest of the Düsseldorf court, '[the orchestra was] a felicitous lot of fine artists'. The amount of money Johann Wilhelm invested in courtly show was not atypical for its time, but he did receive criticism from his fellow Electors.
Johann Wilhelm dreamt of being named a King. Only with royal status could he really become a complete monarch, on the same level with other European potentates. The forms of display of the baronial regime, which Johann Wilhelm chose, carried royal characteristics, which many people regarded as arrogance. For the town of Düsseldorf, this resulted in a huge cultural boom, creating a flowering of architecture, music and art that was on par with much larger European Courts. Famous artists like Gabriel Grupello and Adriaen van der Werff were in Johann Wilhelm's service. After Johann Wilhelm's death in 1716 the cultural polish in Düsseldorf faded quickly: his successor, his brother Karl Philipp, moved the elector's residence to Mannheim and implemented a rigid austerity plan to get a grip on the state finances, which Johann Wilhelm had allowed to get out of control.
Today, the works from the artistic flowering of Johann Wilhelm's court (Düsseldorf residents later fondly called him 'Jan Wellem'), are scattered all over Europe in museums and private collections. In 1716 the court painter, Adriaen van der Werff, created an impressive painting in homage to the elector and his second wife. It's subject: the arts to honoring the noble couple. Music is particularly well represented, which is shown in the allegory of lute playing. The present album gives an impression of the rich music culture at the court of the elector Johann Wilhelm. La Barca Leyden uses a similar instrumentation to Duke Johann Wilhem's musical ensemble, which is depicted in a painting from 1695 showing the Elector and his wife dancing in Spanish costumes. In the music gallery in the background on the right, one can see a handful of musicians who are playing on violins and bass viols. Johann Wilhelm himself played the bass viol.
Not only were accomplished musicians employed by the elector (at least 60 of them!), instrument makers also worked at the court. It is no wonder that well-known composers and musicians of the time gladly visited the elector's court in Düsseldorf. One of these was Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759). Handel came into contact with the court through one of Anna Maria Luisa's brothers and came to visit the Elector several times in 1710 and 1711. After the second visit, Johann Wilhelm had to apologize to Handel's employer, Georg Ludwig of Hannover, for making Handel overstay his granted leave. Arcangelo Corelli's (1653- 1713) Concerti Grossi are among the best-loved masterworks of the Baroque. Corelli's compositions were well thought of in Germany, and all the more so by Johann Wilhelm. He sent his future concertmaster, Georg Andreas Krafft (1660-1726), to study with Corelli in 1679. At the end of his life, Corelli dedicated his Concerti Grossi to the Elector. Johann Wilhelm, after Corelli's death, posthumously thanked him for this with the title 'Marquis of Ladenbourg'. The three concerti on this recording are played in a chamber music setting, based on the arrangements published in 1725 in London by the publisher Walsh. The small ensemble setting significantly highlights the structure of the pieces. The third composer represented on this album is Francesco Antonio Bonporti (1672-1749). He was for a time under the employ of Emperor Joseph I, Johann Wilhelm's nephew. Thusly compositions of this Italian composer reached Düsseldorf - a significant center of European Baroque Music.
Guido von Büren