Muffat & Ebner: Complete Works for keyboard Vol II.
Edited by Siegbert Rampe.
Bärenreiter Urtext BA 8460. 29.95 Euros.
In the last edition of Clavichord International I reviewed the first volume of the new edition by Siegbert Rampe of the complete works for keyboard by Georg Muffat and Wolfgang Ebner, and am delighted that the second and final volume has appeared in time to enable us to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the death of Muffat. This volume contains a further 75 pages of musical text and the customary thorough introduction in English and German including brief biographies, a listing and discussion of the sources used, helpful notes on performance practice including Muffat’s idiosyncratic ornamentation signs, (although see caveat below), and notes on individual pieces. A critical commentary is printed after the musical text.
The volume contains two further partitas (both in F) by Muffat considered to be of certain authenticity, as well as some further partita movements in F and just 2 bars of a toccata all considered “of uncertain authenticity”. The first authentic partite opens with a slow chordal prelude followed by a Ballet, Gavotte, Menuet and Rigadon. The second partita opens with a Prelude which impresses from the start with its vigorous scale passages and roulades. A second Prelude offers scope for demonstrating the inflectional powers of the clavichord in its six-part chords. The traditional suite movements follow, a Gavotte and Menuete (sic) being inserted before the Gigue with dotted 6/8 rhythms, the set finishing with a piece in 3/4 entitled Les Pepheuses. Rampe has conjectured that the set of movements published here as “of uncertain authenticity” may well belong to the first authentic work; certainly the Sarabande, Minuette, Burlesca, Rigodon and piece entitled La Folle go well with the other movements in the same key. The most substantial piece is the da capo Passagaglia (sic), its cumulative increase in speed through quavers, triplets and semiquavers requiring some careful practise to allow some of the harmonic subtleties to be heard.
The edition also contains the Ciacona, Passacaglia and the variations entitled Nova Cyclopeias Harmonica from his printed collection “Apparatus Musico-organisticus” of 1690, all of which are readily available in modern editions and a facsimile. Indeed it is in these pieces where the editorial standard slips somewhat; there are several printing errors in theses pieces with regards to ornaments in particular, as well as a few pitch errors. It is also a pity that Rampe uses a / to indicate subdivision of bars, this giving the impression visually at times of being some kind of diacritical sign for an ornament; not all players are so experienced as to be bale to differentiate this sign from the genuine / for an appoggiatura! Incidentally, the introduction errs in stating that Muffat does not make use of the appoggiatura, since / does indeed appear in the works here printed from the Apparatus. Comparison with the facsimile is recommended.
By Ebner we are offered a Toccata in G minor, its C time preludial opening leading into a double fugue in 12/8, both subjects being combined in the final section. A brief, more improvisatory Toccata in D minor with its written out arpeggios in the opening bars may be just the first part of a longer work. The main work by Ebner in the volume is the set of 36 variations on the 2-part aria in A minor composed by the Emperor Ferdinand IIIrd. The first twelve variations are mainly in C time, with the ninth in 6/4 and the eleventh in 12/8. The second and third set of twelve are headed Courante and Sarabande respectively. Virtuoso runs abound throughout and the invention rarely flags. Here indeed is a work calculated to enable the player to show off not only his dexterity but also the quality of his instrument. The works of certain authenticity close with a Courrente in D. Amongst the works of uncertain authenticity are two short preludes that do not rise above the average. Ascribed to Ebner are a Partita in A, its fugal Gigue being especially tricky, an interesting Allemand, four Courantes and three Sarabandes. Also included are the Fugue and Caprice in G from Roberday’s collection of 1660. The brief treatise on figured-bass is well worth studying, although the German Gothic script is hard to read in places and there is no translation .
Many of the dance movements presuppose the use of the short octave, but Ebner’s Partita in A requires a low F# and G#. Once again Siegbert Rampe and Bärenreiter deserve our thanks for making these works available in an excellent well laid-out edition which despite the comments above basically fulfils scholarly and practical requirements, and leaves us wondering how many more such compositions by Muffat and Ebner have been lost completely. This selection of pieces is eminently suited to the clavichord’s expressivity, and although several are demanding, careful study is amply repaid as the pieces come to life beneath the fingers.
© John Collins
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