Jean Schenk is one of the most prominent baroque composers for

viola da gamba.

    Contemporary of the most popular nowadays Marin Marais and Antoine de Forqueray, Schenck was born  in Amsterdam, to german parents, in 1660. His education as a musician and his professional beginnings were bound to his hometown, where he published his first compositions. In his maturity he joined as virtuoso viola da gamba player and composer to the orchestra of the refined court of the Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm, established  in Dusseldorf by then.

    The court of the Elector was in those days frequent destination

excellent artists: painters, craftsmen, musicians and composers from a

wide variety countries, such as Johann Sigismund Weiss, renowned lutenist (to like his better known brother Silvius Leopold Weiss), that entered to be part of the musical chapel in 1708, or celebrities like A. Steffani, who held senior positions at the same period as Schenck, and even Handel was there in 1710 and 1711.

    The close relationship of the Elector with the papal seat may have influenced the court's predilection for Italian music, both nstrumental

Francisco Luengo  &  Xurxo Varela

viola da gamba


    This is a collection of twelve sonatas for two violas da gamba,


    Published in Amsterdam, this collection shows from the title and

dedicatory- both in Italian its intention to be "à la mode". However, both the structure of the works and the style, demonstrates a great eclecticism and a deep knowledge of the different styles, Italian, French and German.

    The writing of these duets is often conceived as a complex tapestry, in which a musical phrase - and the corresponding basso continuo - may be divided between the two instruments, so that, what can be heard in each one, separately, does not have a full sense.

    Among the twelve sonatas we find sonatas "da camera" suites of

dances -or a mixture of sonata and suite-, and even something close to the sonata "da Chiesa." Movements indicating tempo, dances (allemanda corrente sarabande, giga, and ciacona) and aria (polonese, aria, aria amoroso and two aria allegro) are named in Italian. As an exception rondeau, bourée and menuet are written in french.

music and opera. The director of the orchestra, G. A. Kraft, was sent to Rome to study with Corelli (Corelli himself dedicated his opus 6 to the prince elector, in almost the same words used by Schenck in the front page of his duets: “Altezza Serenissima Elettorale di Giovanni Principe Palatino del Reno…”).

    Nevertheless, French music was not ignored in ballets and overtures.

In this environment Schenck Jean developed his life since 1696, and here he composed his opus 8 "Le Nymphe di Rheno".

    It can be stated, nearly as a a rule, that the allegro adagio and presto movements show a distinctly Italian style, even "Corellian" sometimes, while dances display a defined French flair.

    Hence with the title "Le Nymphe di Rheno" Schenck wants to

explain the synthesis of national styles that these Nordic nymphs inspired him so early.

Johannes Schenck (1660 - ± 1712)


Xurxo Varela plays a seven-string viol made by Robert Eyland in 1989.

Francisco Luengo plays a seven-string viol made by Marcelo Ardizone in 1993, following a model by Edward Lewis.

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