Discovering Pisendel

by Javier Lupiáñez.

Mr. Pisendel

Johann Georg Pisendel was one of those artists who undoubtedly marked the European music scene of the first half of the 18th century. He was a reference for interpreters and composers of his time and his legacy continues to surprise us and discover fundamental and unknown aspects of the Baroque musical world. Still, Pisendel remains a great unknown.

He was a student of Torelli, Montanari, Heinichen or Vivaldi, with whom he also cultivated a deep friendship. Friends of his were also Bach, Telemann, Graupner, Zelenka, Hasse or Graupner. From among this wonderful list of friends we know that Bach wrote especially for him and that Vivaldi, Telemann or Albinoni dedicated sonatas and concerts to him. Como profesor, Pisendel tuvo entre sus alumnos a músicos como Quantz, Benda o Agricola. In addition, Pisendel was a talented composer, one of the greatest virtuosos of the eighteenth century and an avid collector and painstaking copyist who managed to gather in his archive for the orchestra of Dresden over 2000 scores, making his collection one of the most important archives musicals of the first half of the eighteenth century, besides being (only surpassed by Turin) the second largest collection of music by Antonio Vivaldi.

As if this were not enough to awaken our interest in Pisendel, there are those who say that Veracini jumped from a second floor in Dresden because of him or that he was persecuted by the secret police in Venice … but we’ll tell you later

The Young Pisendel

Torelli, Pistochino, the first work by Vivaldi…

Pisendel’s home, Cadolzburg

Pisendel was born on December 26, 1687, following the Julian calendar of the time (used in Germany until 1700 and in Spain until 1582) – what corresponds in our current Gregorian calendar to January 5, 1688, – in a cozy little house in Cadolzburg, a small German city in Bavaria. There his father Simon Pisendel (1654 – 1719) worked as a singer and organist since 1680.

In 1697 he entered the choir of the Royal Chapel of Ansbach where he studied singing with the then maestro da cappella of the Duke of Ansbach, Francesco Antonio Mamiliano Pistocchi (Palermo, 1659 – Bologna, 1726), known by the nickname of Pistocchino, and violin with the great Giuseppe Torelli, one of the most acclaimed musicians of the time and professor of Antonio Vivaldi.

Precisely we know that Torelli was a teacher of Vivaldi thanks to Pisendel, who had the opportunity to copy from the Torelli’s archives a sonata composed by Vivaldi. Pisendel kept the sonata and years later took it with him to Dresden. The score lost on the way (or over the years) several pages, including the cover, where Pisendel wrote the name of the composer, so the piece remained silent in Dresden as an anonymous work until 2014, when it was identified and interpreted for the first time in modern times by Scaramuccia in the program De Musyck Kamer of the Dutch radio Concertzender. Now it is cataloged as the Trio sonata for violin, cello and continuo in G major RV 820

It is no exaggeration to say that we are discovering Vivaldi thanks to Pisendel

Friends of Youth: Bach y Telemann

In 1709 Pisendel leaves Ansbach to go to Leipzig to study law, on the way he stops in Weimar to meet Johann Sebastian Bach.

It seems that the admiration between both musicians was mutual and that Bach was impressed by the talent of the young Pisendel. From this first meeting Pisendel took the score of the concert TWV 52: G2 by Telemann copied by Bach himself.

After this first meeting Bach will visit Dresden five times, showing his admiration for Pisendel and the Dresden orchestra not only writing for both but putting the Dresden orchestra as an example of good functioning and efficiency. Thus, on August 23, 1730, Bach sent a memorandum (Entwurff) to the Council of Leipzig on the operation of his orchestra and choir and used as an example the good work of the Dresden orchestra as opposed to that of Leipzig.

High notes, very high notes in Laudamus te, B minor Mass by Bach (authograph)

We know that the extremely virtuous and high violin solo of Bach’s B minor Mass was especially written for Pisendel and that Bach and Pisendel kept in touch for the rest of their lives, exchanging their own music and that of other composers. The close musical relationship between Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin and Sonata for solo violin by Pisendel or the fact that we still do not know whether the Sonata for violin and continuo BWV 1024 was written by Pisendel, Bach or as a collaboration between both artists are evidence of the close Bach-Pisendel relationship.

Manuscript Mus.2-R-3.2 copied by Pisendel. Traditionally attributed to Bach as his BWV 1024. Recent studies (Köpp, Kai, Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755) and die Anfänge der neuzeitlichen Orchesterleitung, 2005) attributed this work to Pisendel or as a result of a Pisendel-Bach collaboration

It seems that during the period in which he was in Leipzig Pisendel did not waste time. As soon as he arrived in 1709, Pisendel impressed all his colleagues by masterfully performing a concert by Albinoni, he replaced Melchior Hoffman as director of the Leipzig Opera and became concertmaster of the group founded by Telemann, Collegium musicum. It was precisely there that he met Georg Philipp Telemann, with whom he would maintain a close friendship for the rest of his life, exchanging not only music but a personal and intimate correspondence.

Autograph of Telemann concerto TWV 51:B1 “Concerto grosso, per il Sig.r Pisendel, da me GF Telemann” [Concerto Grosso by Telemann for Mr. Pisendel]

Pisendel would leave Leipzig in 1712 to join the Dresden Court Orchestra, where he will remain for the rest of his life. As soon as Pisendel entered, he would embark on an exciting tour of Germany, France and Italy,

During these trips he would meet other musicians like Couperin or Vivaldi and learn from the greatest Italian masters, he would be pursued by the secret police in Venice and he would have his first and difficult encounter with Veracini, who would end up jumping from a second floor in Dresden, breaking his hip, one leg and literally opening his head, accusing Pisendel of everything, among many other things.

From his trip to Italy Pisendel brought the best music he could find, he had to use a smaller paper to copy it and to take less space in his luggage.

But let’s leave that for the next post…

“Pisendel’s journey through Italy is a story that deserves and has yet to be told”

Prof. Michael Talbot

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The Mysterious case of La Montanari

La Montanari. Sonata per Camera a Violino solo, Dedicato al merito impareggiabile del Sig:re Antonio Montanari insigne Sonatore di Violino, Da un suo divoto servo ammiratore della sua virtù.” 

[La Montanari. Chamber Sonata for Solo Violin, dedicated to the incomparable merit of Signor Antonio Montanari, distinguished player of the violin, by a devoted servant who admires his skill]

Giuseppe Valentini dedicated this careful handwritten autograph and this beautiful sonata to his friend and colleague Antonio Montanari. It is undoubtedly a precious and personal gift from Valentini to Montanari, who would certainly receive with joy such a tremendous and valuable tribute. How is it possible that this sonata ended up in the hands of a very young Pisendel soon to be composed? In addition, the score that Pisendel took to Dresden was not a copy, as many others, if not the autograph manuscript that Valentini dedicated to Montanari.

We post a bit of this special work and it is part of the program for our next CD.

Follow us and we will unveil the mysteries and stories that lie behind 1717. Memories of a Journey to Italy

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