Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Sonata Cu Cu

Für Violine (Sopranblockflöte) und Basso Continuo.
Ed. Dagmar Wilgo.
Kölner Reihe Alter Musik, iv + 11pp.
Edition Walhall EW971. ISMN: M-50070-971-8

This edition seems to have been produced with the recorder in mind. The treble line is notated with the octave symbol above the clef and where Schmelzer writes notes below that instrument’s range, Dagmar Wilgo provides sensible alternatives.

The bound score includes a fairly minimal introduction (it is a well-known piece, after all) and Daniel Ivo de Oliveira’s continuo realization; there are two further copies of the score (one had a loose sheet with p. 1, presumably to avoid the page turn, on one side and p. 6 on the other – I’m not entirely sure why, since that section fits a two-page spread and the treble instrument’s first bar is silent, so there is time to turn from 5, whereas from page 3 to 4 is a nightmare, since both hands are needed for the last note of 3 and there is only a quaver rest at the beginning of 4…; the second copy did not have this sheet at all!)

As a violinist who also plays recorder, I have no problem with anyone wanting to play music specifically written for one instrument on the other – as long as it works! Personally, I hear the cuckoo as a mellow instrument, more tenor recorder (which is, in fact, exactly what I used when I played that part in Hansel und Gretel many years ago!) than soprano; the very thought of those high Ds and Es chirping away in a confined space made me wince – more songthrush than cuckoo. Personally, I would have opted for alto recorder and reworked the really low music. I also have to say that I don’t find the lack of bar lines a great help, either – in this typesetting, normal bar lines have been used and hidden, so the spacing is slightly odd; that technique also produces anomalies like repeated accidentals in the editorial continuo part. Besides, having inferred from the brief notes that the original source consists of a couple of parts, it would be useful to know if the irregular barring was entirely consistent between them, or have they – like time signatures – been rationalised for the edition? [Incidentally, I doubt the two consecutive bars marked 6/4 on page 9 of the bound score are original.] There are a few notational quirks that are visually upsetting: I’m not sure why the third, fourth and fifth groups of quavers of the bass part are in opposition to two even groups of four notes in the continuo’s right hand; I am puzzled, too, by the need for the right-hand part to be written as (at least) two voices throughout; in the Bertali-like third section, the lower voice of the violin/recorder part uses semibreve rests when they should be pairs of minim rests. So some minor reservations, but a welcome addition to the catalogue, especially for violinists!

Brian Clark