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Erlebach - Richter - BBC Music Magazine

01 February 2006
BBC Music Magazine
Nicholas Anderson
4 Stars

Philipp Heinrich Erlebach belongs to the generation before Bach. He worked throughout his life in the Thuringian town of Rudolstadt, serving as director of music to the Count of Schwarzburg and Hohnstein for over 30 years until his death in 1714. Like Bach, he travelled little, remaining pretty well within the Rudolstadt area and, again like Bach, acquired his wide-ranging knowledge of European styles from itinerant musicians, travellers' reports and the circulation of manuscripts. Erlebach was an accomplished composer of whom we should certainly have heard more but for a disastrous fire in the Rudolstadt court library in 1735 which destroyed over nine tenths of his musical legacy.

Among the surviving pieces are the present set of six Sonatas for violin, viola da gamba and continuo or, alternatively two violins and continuo. These pleasingly varied pieces - two of them call for scordatura tuning in the violin part - attest to Erlebach's cosmopolitan outlook. Though violinists have been previously attracted by Erlebach's sonatas this is the first disc to feature all of them. Rodolfo Richter plays them with virtuosity and expressive warmth, qualities which are complemented by Alison McGillivray's sensitive and self-effacing partnership on the viola da gamba. In summary, there is no dull music on this recording and no dull playing of it. The A major Sonata with its graceful Chaconne, perhaps the finest of the six Sonatas, should delight all those who hear it.

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