Lubecker Viola da gamba Solo Sonata in D minor. Edition G├╝ntersberg

This sonata, not previously published, comes from a collection of music for viols and other instruments in the Bodlein Library (Ms.MusSch.D.249). In the middle of the volume is a section consisting of six sonatas for viola da gamba and basso continuo, all designated "Violadagamba Solo" and "Sonata" and copied by the same hand. There are two by Giovanni Schenck, one each by Martino Radack, Davidt Baudringer and Diederich Buxtehude and this anonymous sonata. The editors have named it "Lubecker" as it is grouped with works by composers who all worked in Lubeck or had a connection with Buxtehude.

The sonata is a single movement beginning with an arpeggio type theme in common time which is quickly developed in a virtousic fantasy in which double stops, big chords, large leaps and fast scale passages using the entire range of the viol are all employed. This leads into a chaconne consisting of twenty 5-bar couplets and the sonata is concluded with a short, rousing section in common time which is quite dramatic in places.

The editors suggest that the sonata is similar to Buxtehude's writing for solo viol. I am not so sure; superficially perhaps, but I didn't find quite as much depth and substance as in the Buxtehude pieces I have played. Interestingly however, as I was playing through the chaconne section, which takes up the main part of the piece, I found much of the passage-work has echoes of Buxtehude's organ writing or even some passages in Bach's great c minor organ passacaglia.

I found the realisation of the basso continuo rather fussy at times, especially in the opening section. There are busy quavers and semiquavers in the right hand in places where the solo part is already very full and some calm support would be more helpful. In the chaconne the right hand is somewhat sparser and seems more appropriate. I was pleased to see that in the part produced for the bass viol continuo player the figures have been included. This has become more common recently but not all publishers seem to realise how much more interesting and helpful it is to the bass line player to be given an idea of the harmony happening above.

Although I didn't feel that this sonata is the greatest musical discovery I nevertheless enjoyed exploring it. It will appeal to anyone interested in exploring more of the North German solo repertoire, especially those who would enjoy the flashy virtuosic writing. I should be most interested to hear the opinions of anyone else who looks at this sonata as to whether it really might be by Buxtehude.

Elizabeth Dodd,
The Viol No. 5, January 2007