Music at Sanssouci
Reading this title, who does not think at once of Adolph Menzel’s oil painting A Flute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci (1852) with its depiction of Frederick II (1712-86) playing the traverso? Although Menzel’s painting idealises the Prussian King through the eyes of the nineteenth century, its popularity has influenced our view of musical practice in the Prussian summer palace.
Prussia’s first servant in the vineyard of the Lord
The King himself had made sketches for the palace, which was built by his architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff from 1745 onwards. The six terraced vineyards on the south side of the royal kitchen garden of his father Frederick William I (1688-1740) had been laid out in the previous year. The summer palace in Rococo style was already inaugurated on 1 May 1747, although all twelve rooms were not yet completed at that time. It may be mentioned in passing here that this is something the palace has in common with the first royal opera house in Prussia, since the Berlin Opera too had opened in only a semi-finished state – with Carl Heinrich Graun’s dramma per musica Cleopatra e Cesare in 1742. The almost modest-looking, single-storey palace overlooking the terraced vineyards and surrounded by nature was intended to be a refuge for the King and his invited guests – to afford them a life ‘sans souci’ (without a care). Although Frederick II initially lived there only from late April to early October (except in years when he was on campaign), Potsdam increasingly became his true residence. As a result of this, the monarch – and thus the decision-making centre – moved away from the Berlin court community.
Lena VAN DER HOVEN (translation: Charles Johnston), extract from the 22-page booklet included with the recording.
At the heart of German Baroque music
Giovanni Gabrieli, Sonate e Canzoni “per concertar con l’organo”, Concerto Palatino, Bruce Dickey, Charles Toet.
Hans Leo Hassler, Missa I super Dixit Maria, Ensemble Vocal Européen, Philippe Herreweghe.
Exaudi me Domine a 16, Hulgas-Ensemble, Paul Van Nevel.
Claudio Monteverdi, Vespro de la Beata Vergine SV 206, ac Vespere pluribus decantada cum nonnullis sacris concentibus ad sacella sive Principum cubicula accommodata,
Magnificat, Concerto Vocale, René Jacobs.
Selva Morale e spirituale, Recueil de 1640 (extraits) Les Arts Florissants, William Christie.
Claudio Merulo, Toccata con minute, Concerto Soave, Jean-Marc Aymes.
Claudio Monteverdi, Pianto della Madonna, sopra il Lamento dell’Arianna, Maria Cristina Kiehr, Concerto Soave, Jean-Marc Aymes.
Adolph von Menzel, Flute concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci, 1852, oil on canvas, Berlin, Alte Nationalgalerie, akg-images
Potsdam, Sanssouci palace, the Music room, 1745-47, akg-images
Anton Graff, Frederick II, King of Prussia, 1781, oil on canvas, Potsdam, Sanssouci Palace, akg-images
Alfred Lemoine, C. P. E. Bach, Lithograph after a lost original, 1867, Berlin, Sammlung Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte, akg-images