The history of German baroque music is inevitably dominated by the towering figures of Schütz, Buxtehude, Bach and Handel; and yet, throughout the period, there was much fine, rewarding and delightful music being produced by their colleagues and contemporaries, and Johann Philipp Krieger is an excellent example. This Nuremberg composer was a contemporary of Corelli, and in many ways his instrumental music is related in style. These twelve Trio Sonatas approximating to the 'sonata da chiesa' format are attractive, beautifully crafted and tuneful pieces, each one consisting of several sections with frequent changes of pace and mood within each work but resulting in a satisfying, finely structured unity.
The musicians of Parnassi musici, playing on period instruments, are excellent: Margaret MacDuffie and Matthias Fischer (violins), Matthias Müller (viola da gamba), Hubert Hoffmann (archlute) and Helene Lerch at the organ or harpsichord. They play the music with spirit, style and feeling and altogether do a beautiful job. I especially enjoyed the fine, Corellian virtuoso violin passages in the Sonata Decima (track 10), and the extremely attractive Sonata Terza (3) ending in a delightful Ciacconetta; this latter work also appears on another Krieger disc which I'll come back to in a moment. But in truth all of these sonatas are lovely, with sprightly contrapuntal allegros, graceful adagios over a walking bass, and fine catchy melodies everywhere.
Undoubtedly J. P. Krieger was, by the standards of the 'big four' baroque figures mentioned above, a minor master, but his music is so graceful, so beautifully crafted, and so finely performed here, that it fully justifies a 5-star verdict. If you want to explore his music further, the secular vocal music is also well worth investigating; my favourite among the discs I know so far is a glorious pasticcio of opera extracts, Johann Philipp Krieger-Lieben Und Geliebet Werden, which also includes a few instrumental pieces including the Sonata Terza mentioned above. But its highlight, for me, is a stunning soprano rendition of the exquisitely sad aria 'Einsamkeit, du Qual der Hertzen' (solitude, you tormentor of hearts); it's about a century ahead of its time, sounding as if it belongs in the Romantic period or, at the very least, the Sturm und Drang; no wonder Andreas Scholl includes it in a fine baroque recital disc Andreas Scholl: German Baroque Songs. One way or another, baroque enthusiasts shouldn't live without it!