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Müthel Concertos and Chamber Music

Polonaise G major / G-Dur for Flute, 2 Violins, Violoncello and Harpsichord (Cembalo)
Duet C major for 2 Harpsichords
Sonata D majo for Flute and Harpsichord
Polonaises in F major and B flat major for 2 Violins and Violoncello
Sonata F major for Harpsichord
Concerto B flat major for Harpsichord and Strings
Concerto E flat major for Harpsichord, 2 Bassoons, Strings and B. c.
Concerto D minor / d-Moll for 2 Bassoons, Strings and B.
Musica Alta Ripa
/Gregor Hollmann & Bernward Lohr, harpsichords

MDG Gold 309 0452-2 [60 + 75 mins]

Recorded in 1994 and now reissued with new packaging, this is a ground breaking release that ought to place the name of Johann Gottfried Müthel firmly in our new century's 'canon' of great baroque composers, who were numbered so few until recently.

New Grove has a small, intriguing but somewhat off-putting entry: Müthel, Johann Gottfried (b 1728; d 1788) - - remained a bachelor, was looked upon as an oddity - - introverted as both man and artist, he began experimenting from about 1750 in self-expression, striving to depict his inner life in music - - one of the most self-willed musical representatives of the early 'Sturm und Drang' - - composed slowly, and only when he felt in the right mood - - virtuoso and often wilful passage-work - - Müthel strove exaggeratedly for expression, far exceeding his model, C. P. E. Bach - - bizarre and occasionally mannered style - - felt in the brittle melodic lines and jagged rhythms, often broken up into tiny units. Similar stylistic features characterize his concertos. His keyboard variations are among the boldest and most original compositions of the kind between Bach and Beethoven.

Its author LOTHAR HOFFMANN-ERBRECHT expands this in his liner notes for the present release, quoting an unique letter, a document of major importance, for "no other musician of the pre-classical era expressed his thoughts on composing in such detail" - "the testimony of an unconventional man who always attempted to be original and unique in his compositions - - the prototype of the artistic personality that was to become the ideal of all musicians in the 19th century".

His output was small and selective, as he composed never to order, and only when he had the »necessary tranquility of mind«.

One curiosity, to be found at http://www.hoasm.org/XIE/Muethel.html, was that he would never perform other than in winter time when deep snow covered the streets, in order - as he said - not to be disturbed by the clatter of carriages passing by. This relates interestingly to Paul Simmonds' notes for his superb CD of German Clavichord music in which he explained in similar terms the clavichord's low profile in the "early music revival" because of its unsuitability for modern concert life.

Listening habits change constantly, and it is worth noting that the only mention of Muthel to date on Musical Pointers has been mine: "walking down to Swiss Cottage station after the British Clavichord Society meeting, I listened with huge enjoyment to Paul Simmonds playing Müthel's Arioso with 12 Variations on my new iPod" [New & Old; Loud & Soft]... That's the 21st C way to cut out "the clatter of carriages passing by"! Heard again today, that Arioso & Variations is a marvellous piece, which "seems to draw from a bottomless well of creative ideas" [Simmonds, Ars Musici AM 1145-2].

A treasure trove of inspiring recorded performances; put it high on your wish-list.

Peter Grahame Woolf