Born in 1660 into a family of peasant farmers, Johann Joseph Fux died in 1741 as Kapellmeister at the Habsburg court in Vienna, a prestigious post that he had held for almost 30 years: an extraordinary rise in fortune and testament to both considerable gifts as a musician and, self-evidently, an inclination towards hard work and self-improvement.
He is best known now for the Gradus ad Parnassum. This monumental treatise was published in 1725 at the Emperor’s expense and quickly became an indispensable manual on counterpoint, studied and absorbed by generations of composers thereafter. However, its formidable reputation should not overshadow his talent as a creative musician, which is displayed here in five keyboard partitas, a colourful Capriccio and a set of 12 minuets as well as a trio of shorter pieces. In all of them may be heard – and enjoyed – a surprising degree of charm, grace and easefully written melody. Indeed, Fux’s achievement was a perfect balance between rational precision and feeling, artifice and spontaneity.
These new recordings by Filippo Emanuele Ravizzi have few rivals in the current catalogue. Ravizzi is a pupil of Bob van Asperen and Gustav Leonhardt: a distinguished pedigree, which brings a fine feeling both to the tripping, French-style dance rhythms of the partitas and to the potential for darker expressive coloration in the Capriccio and the long D major chaconne (not to be confused with a better-known G major work in the same form, composed by Fux for a chamber ensemble of strings). All these works, not forgetting the Aria passeggiata in C, with its masterful handling of counterpoint (as one might expect) became reference works for Bach and Handel in their turn. Anyone curious to hear the work of a formative figure in the Baroque period will take great pleasure from this set.
Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741) overcame his humble origins as son of peasant farmers brilliantly, eventually holding the prestigious post of Kapellmeister at the Hapsburg Court in Vienna for over 30 years, serving 3 Emperors in a row, all of whom were in the possession of a passion for music.
This new recording contains Fux’ complete works for harpsichord: the 5 Partitas, a Capriccio and several miscellaneous works. His style is a perfect blend of French and German keyboard style: French in its elaborate ornamentation, elegance and brilliance, German in the strict counterpoint. Fux is also the author of “Gradus ad Parnassum”, the monumental treatise on counterpoint which became a point of reference for many generations to come.
Harpsichordist Filippo Ravizza plays on a copy made by Luca Vismara of a magnificent Dulcken harpsichord, built in the Flemish tradition and kept in the Smithonian Institute in Washington.
Excellent liner notes written by the artist in both English and Italian, as well as information on the instrument.