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Harmonice Mundi

Viktor Töpelmann, Daniela Niedhammer

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Viktor Töpelmann - viola da gamba
Daniela Niedhammer - organ

At the Benedictine abbey of Kremsmünster, a magnificent bass viol built by Hanns Khögl in Vienna in 1674 has survived nearly unaltered to this day. This instrument inspired the viol player, music historian and historical performance specialist Viktor Töpelmann to look for a matching solo repertoire and its sound world of the late 17th century. Several fine viols from this period – built by Khögl in Vienna, Johannes Schorn in Salzburg or Johann Seelos in Linz – have come down to us, yet virtually no original solo music for viol exists from the southern part of the German speaking lands. Viol virtuosos, such as Matthias Puecher (c1660–1743) in Kremsmünster or Gottfried Finger (c1660–1730), apparently played violin compositions on their instruments.

Thus, several transcriptions of violin music are heard on this recording alongside original compositions for viola da gamba by August Kühnel (1645 – after 1699) and Johannes Schenck (1660 – after 1717). Ignazio Albertini’s (c1644–1685) violin sonata was adapted for the viol by Gottfried Finger in the late 17th century and Viktor Töpelmann transcribed sonatas by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c1620–1680) and Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644–1704) for this recording. In addition, the CD features organ music by Johann Caspar Kerll (1627–1693) and Georg Muffat (1653–1704), performed by the organist and harpsichordist Daniela Niedhammer on a historical organ from 1662.

In conjunction with the artists, these two stunning historical instruments shape the characteristic sound of the recording. Khögl’s viol is highly resonant and powerful; it has a radiant singing quality in the treble and a ligneous core to its bass. The stringing used for this recording with six pure gut strings enhances the upper harmonics of its sound and simultaneously gives the sound an earthy quality. The organ with five stops on one manual was built by Hans Vogl for the St Stephanus church in Vormoos, where it still stands today. The wooden 8-foot pipes provide an ideal accompaniment to the viol and its high registers ablaze with colour in the solo works. The title of the recording »Harmonice Mundi« refers to Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) and his idea of a musical harmony of the spheres, which can be experienced by the listener »through an artful symphony in a fraction of an hour«.

Viktor Töpelmann, Oct. 2021