Johann Gottfried Müthel (1728–1788) was an outstanding keyboard virtuoso and a talented improviser, but he left behind relatively few works, as he seemed to compose many sketches but complete only a few of them, when he was in just the right creative mood. His music can be traced stylistically to the empfindsamer Stil (sentimental style) which blended passages rich in emotional nuance and strong harmonic contrasts with expert use of rhetoric and counterpoint and sparkling improvisational techniques. The vast majority of his compositions are instrumental works, particularly works for keyboard. The pieces on this album represent the various key stages of the composer’s mature period.
The Duet in E flat is one of the very first musical scores to feature the word ‘fortepiano’, a sign of the burgeoning public interest in the new instrument that would become the keyboard of choice for the Romantic period, better equipped to reveal the performer’s state of mind than the more ‘mechanical’ harpsichord. The movement names (cantabile, con affetto and performance instructions (dolce, crescendo, decrescendo) suggest the dynamic fortepiano, while the long trills and other embellishments are associated with the harpsichord tradition.
The Duet in C reveals the influence of J.C. Bach’s keyboard sonatas Op.5 and contains innovative elements combined with expert use of rhetorical gestures. The bright and elegant Divertimento in B flat plays with the emotions with varied, sometimes chivalrous writing.
The three sonatas for harpsichord, published in Nuremberg in 1756, were Müthel’s first publication. Their compositional style is highly idiomatic and eclectic, and the themes are developed confidently, with abrupt passages and sudden changes in emotion that epitomise Sturm und Drang writing.
Johann Gottfried Müthel (1728 – 1788) was the last pupil of the great Johann Sebastian Bach. He was present at the master’s deathbed, and he performed the funeral services, taking over the duties of the deceased Cantor.
Mühtel’s music (“full of novelty, taste and grace” according to the great art historian and traveller Charles Burney) is of a wide variety, and written mainly for the keyboard (organ and harpsichord). Müthel’s music can be traced stylistically to the empfindsamer Stil or ‘sentimental style’, which blended passages rich in emotional nuance and strong harmonic contrasts with use of rhetoric and counterpoint and sparkling improvisational techniques.
This new recording presents solo sonatas and duets for two keyboards by Müthel, highly original works which show that Müthel was an excellent keyboard player and improviser.
Played by Anna Clemente and Giacomo Benedetti, two keyboard players who won their spurs in the performance of hidden gems of the Baroque and (Early) Classical Period, on the basis of the Historically Informed Performance Practice.
• Recorded July & September 2021 in Florence
• Bilingual booklet in English & Italian contains liner notes by musicologist Serena d’Ambrosio on the composer and works, along with the artists’ biographies
• Anna Clemente plays a harpsichord after Taskin, by Alfredo Ryczai
• Giacomo Benedetti: plays a harpsichord after a 2-manual Giusti model, by G. Tamburini (1982, Cremona)