1st Edition

Frederick the Great and his Musicians: The Viola da Gamba Music of the Berlin School

ISBN 9781138257634
Published November 29, 2016 by Routledge
272 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

After decades of stagnation during the reign of his father, the 'Barracks King', the performing arts began to flourish in Berlin under Frederick the Great. Even before his coronation in 1740, the crown prince commenced recruitment of a group of musician-composers who were to form the basis of a brilliant court ensemble. Several composers, including C.P.E. Bach and the Graun brothers, wrote music for the viola da gamba, an instrument which was already becoming obsolete elsewhere. They were encouraged in this endeavour by the presence in the orchestra from 1741 of Ludwig Christian Hesse, one of the last gamba virtuosi, who was described in 1766 as 'unquestionably the finest gambist in Europe'. This study shows how the unique situation in Berlin produced the last major corpus of music written for the viola da gamba, and how the more virtuosic works were probably the result of close collaboration between Hesse and the Berlin School composers. The reader is also introduced to the more approachable pieces which were written and arranged for amateur viol players, including the king's nephew and ultimate successor, Frederick William II. O'Loghlin argues that the aesthetic circumstances which prevailed in Berlin brought forth a specific style that is reflected not only in the music for viola da gamba. Characteristics of this Berlin style are identified with reference to a broad selection of original written sources, many of which are hardly accessible to English-speaking readers. There is also a discussion of the rather contradictory reception history of the Berlin School and some of its composers. The book concludes with a complete thematic catalogue of the Berlin gamba music, with a listing of original manuscript sources and modern publications. The book will appeal to professional and amateur viola da gamba players as well as to scholars of eighteenth-century German music.

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; Introduction; Berlin and the Berlin school; The sources; The forms and genres used in the Berlin gamba music; Alternative instrumentation for the viola da gamba parts; Ludwig Christian Hesse; The composers and their works; Conclusion; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.

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Michael O’Loghlin is a musicologist, music educator, editor and professional orchestra musician based in Brisbane, Australia. He received his B.A. from the University of Sydney and his Ph.D from the University of. Queensland. He is now an Honorary Research Adviser at the School of Music, U.Q.


Frederick the Great and his Musicians, with its detailed account of the sources and its thematic catalogue of sources and modern editions, will doubtless play an important role in the further exploration of the repertory by scholars and gamba players. But this book has a wider importance: its rich and vivid account of the historical and intellectual context of the Berlin musical world will enable anyone equipped with it and a CD player to bring this fascinating cultural world to life. Peter Holman, University of Leeds, UK, from the Foreword. ’Michael O’Loghlin has produced a significant study of the hitherto under-researched school of virtuoso viol playing at Frederick the Great’s court in Berlin. ... valuable and carefully researched.’ Eighteenth-Century Music ’...[a] tremendously important contribution to our knowledge... this book offers an indispensable guide to a previously largely unknown repertoire - one which is clearly of crucial importance for our knowledge of the history of the gamba and, indeed, of music at the Berlin court during the eighteenth century more generally.’ Viola da Gamba Society Journal ’... superb... a book written with love and care, one that professional and amateur gamba players, as well as scholars of 18th-century German music, have been awaiting for quite a long time.’ Early Music America ’Going beyond Ernest Helm’s 1969 monograph on the composers of the Berlin school, O’Loghlin’s account brings new details and interpretations to this repertoire, some of which has only been available in German primary and secondary sources until now...the book [is] indispensible for English language musicology... O'Loghlin's account of gamba music and the Berlin school of musical composition is recommended reading for general and specialist music historians, analysts, theorists, performers and advanced students of music.’ Musicology Australia ’With its exhaustive discussion of sources and detailed lists of alter