As Michele Benuzzi himself explains in a booklet-essay, the idea for this comprehensive collection came about through the success of his smaller, 1CD survey of harpsichord music by Johann Wilhelm Hässler on Brilliant Classics (BC94293), released in 2012. Since then he has gone on to record no less stimulating Baroque discoveries, of music by Josep Galles (BC95228) and Christoph Nichelmann (BC94809).
J.W. Hässler (1747-1822) is not to be confused with Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), whose music has hitherto been better nown and more frequently recorded. Born three years before the death of J.S. Bach, J.W. Hässler’s style embraces both the high-Baroque idiom and then the more edgy, episodic pre-Classical style of his sons, C.P.E. and W.F. Bach. Featured here are three published collections, published in Germany between 1776 and 1780 which reveal him moving from one into the other. Mozart was fairly scathing about him upon the occasion of their one encounter, in Dresden in 1789 – ‘incapable of executing a fugue properly’ – but five years later Hässler moved to St Petersburg where he secured local fame and a small fortune.
Benuzzi has chosen to illuminate the composer’s stylistic journey from polyphony and counterpoint to much more freely composed forms with different instruments. The six sonatas in the 1776 collection are played on a harpsichord, then the 1778 set on a fortepiano and the 1780 ‘Leichte Sonaten’ on a clavichord, both latter instruments based on originals by Gottfried Silbermann, Bach’s favourite maker of keyboard instruments.
Fanfare gave an ‘absolute highest recommendation’ to Benuzzi’s previous Hässler album. ‘He is the ideal interpreter to bring this music to light: highly sensitive to the gesture and emotion of the music, yet capable of carrying the musical narrative forward in telling fashion.’
The second instalment of the complete keyboard works by Johann Wilhelm Hässler.
Johann Wilhem Hässler lived from 1742 to 1822, the transition of the Baroque to the Classical era. His style embraces the Empfindsamkeit initiated by W.F. Bach and C.Ph.E. Bach and the heritage of J.S. Bach. These different idioms perfectly coexist to create his complex language, however, Hässler progressively abandoned the baroque heritage to develop a more modern style embracing a more classical aesthetic. The works on these 4 CD’s clearly mark the stylistic development of Hässler, from Baroque polyphony and counterpoint to the graceful classical language in Haydn style. Michele Benuzzi uses 4 different instruments, to achieve maximum variety and to follow the stylistic and instrumental progression of the works: harpsichord, clavichord, Silbermann piano and Broadwood piano. Benuzzi’s earlier recording of Hässler (BC94239) received excellent reviews: “a most intriguing composer..admirable performance” (Musicweb) Excellent liner notes by the artist.