Johan Schenck Scherzi musicali für Viola da Gamba und Basso continuo Suiten VIII und IX Edition Güntersberg

Scherzi Musicali contains some of Schenck's most diverse and melodically interesting compositions for the viola da gamba. The 101 pieces, grouped into fourteen suites in different keys, cover a wide range of technical difficulty and are arguably the closest in style to the French than any of his solo works - at least according to Johannes Boer in the introduction. The original was first issued by Estienne Roger of Amsterdem in 1698. Roger, who remained Schenk's lifelong collaborator, was perhaps the finest and most prolific printer in Europe, and the surviving original examples of Scherzi Musicali show a work of utmost care and consideration. Recently I had the opportunity to examine some original material related to the composer in Durham Cathedral Library, and the Scherzi print certainly featured as one of the more impressive examples in the collection. There is in fact a facsimile edition of it available on the market - published by the Societe De Musicologie Du Languedoc - so why indeed the need for a modern re-issue?

There are several good reasons; firstly the fact that the original, which appears in a rather large and awkward oblong format, has had to be reduced in size to make it more user friendly. The reproduction is sometimes difficult to read because of the small font. Secondly, the original is not in score and there are of course, no bar numbers. Bar numbers are a great help when one is pressed for time in rehearsals, as are the revised and clearly designated repeat signs - often a cause of confusion when reading facsimiles. Guentersberg Edition has published all of the fourteen suites in seven volumes [Note by Edition Güntersberg in May 2006: actually only two volumes are available now; the rest ist coming.], each with a solo gamba part, a score, a basso continuo part, and a realized cembalo part 'for less-experienced haprsichord players'. The soloist therefore has the chance of reading from either score or an independend solo part. The continuo realisation is execellent and there are some very stylish fill-ins; it is easily read, is in sympathy with the gamba's tessitura and though occasionally lies relatively high, does not at all hinder the solo line.

In his lifetime Schenck stood on at least the same level as Marais and Forqueray, but his fame quickly faded away after his death because many of the details of his life were either not documented or lost through history. His surviving music, however is readily available, and any effort at all to make it more accessible to a wider audience is indeed welcome; this exellent edition by Guentersberg is indeed a positive step in promoting the works of the once 'world famous' Schenck.

Ibi Azis, The Viol No. 2, The Viola da Gamba Society of Great Britain, April 2006