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Clavichord International

John Collins

Summer 2011

Music Title: H.O.C. Zinck
Publisher: Edition HH,
HH 240SOL.
Price: £25.00
Reviewed by John Collins

Appointed as singing master at the Royal Theatre of Copenhagen in 1787, Harnack Otto Conrad Zinck studied harmony and various instruments in Hamburg, perhaps even with C.P.E. Bach himself. According to the lengthy preface to this set of six sonatas published in Hamburg in 1783, it was not until he had grasped the principles of how to express feelings through music that he felt that he had learned how to compose. The subscription gives 294 names and includes many well-known composers for clavichord (Rust, Hšssler, Wolf, Marpurg, Fasch, Rolle, and Eckhard, among others).

Each sonata is in three movements in the sequence fast slow-fast. No. 1 opens with an allegro with predominantly two-part eighth- and quarter-note writing, and closes with a rollicking 12/8 presto in eighth notes, the first part being very much shorter than the second. Broken chords (not all of which lie comfortably beneath small hands), sweeping, arpeggios, and rests announce the set. The opening allegro to No. 2 is an almost non-stop exercise in eighth-notes triplets for the right hand over left-hand quarter notes, the final passage being repeated over four octaves. The concluding Rondo un poco andante is a beautiful creation: its eight-bar theme worthy of the Hamburg Bach himself, its cascades of right-hand thirty-second notes (many have been carefully fingered by the composer) warning against too fast a tempo. The theme modulates as far afield as G-flat and, after the final statement, a veritable explosion of thirty-second notes finishing with triplet thirty-seconds of arpeggiated, close-position triads and a downward sweep bring this piece to an end. No. 3 is an allegro in mainly two-part writing that leads into the slow movement, the final Scherzando e presto, a rondolike structure with a rhythmic and melodic subject combining conjunct and disjunct motion, again being mainly in two parts with some seventeen bars of single notes phrased across the beat. In No. 5 the opening allegro con brio is again toccata-like in its insistent sixteenth notes, frequently against whole notes, the parts being widely spaced. The closing Rondo vivace is a lively 6/8.

Nos. 4 and 6 are in the minor (C and D, respectively) and, not unexpectedly, it is these that provide the most highly charged drama in the set. The opening Moderato e ligato to No. 4 has long lines of eighthnote movement with written out appoggiaturas, much of it being in one voice, but there are moments of syncopated chords with enharmonic changes to heighten the tension. The final movement is a Minuetto con espressione e allegro, the first section being predominantly chordal, the second section, (marked piano e ligato) consisting of eighthnote triplets in the right hand over quarters to dotted halves in the left hand. The genesis of No. 6 and the similarity of its opening phrases to the composerís song about Cainís fratricide are explained fully in the composerís introduction. The opening Allegro con brio contrasts insistent eighthnote triplets with eighth notes phrased across the beat. The final Presto e furioso opens with stabbed eighth notes between the hands, followed by passages of sixteenth notes over whole or half notes. The sonata may be concluded by the song “Kain am Ufer,” which inspired the work.

The slow movements include a lyrical Grazioso mainly in long phrases in No. 1, a Cantabile e sostenuto in No. 2 that includes repeated chords, ideal for applying Bebung, and an explosive cadenza that sweeps through three octaves and requires the most careful touch to finish ppp. In No. 3, the Andante piu tosto allegro in 6/8 contrasts cantabile passages with nervous, sixteenthnote writing. No. 4 is a short, lyrical Andantino, e grazioso, and No. 5 is an expansive Un poco adagio with some expressively melodic writing over an Alberti bass. The final slow movement, No.6ís Adagio con espressione, although short, is a compendium of Sturm und Drang, with passages in octaves in dotted rhythms, sudden, thick chords, enharmonic modulations, and widely spaced writing.

This new edition faithfully carries across the fingering, phrasing and highly detailed dynamic (ranging from ppp to ff) and articulation markings, and the “improvements” that Zinck appended to the original have been incorporated into the text here and described in the critical report. Also included is the song “Kain am Ufer” for those who wish to conclude the final sonata with it, as Zinck suggested. His invaluable preface is translated in full from the German, and C.F. Cramerís enlightening approbation from 1783 is also included. The print is clear, with either five or six systems to the page. However, I do think that a table of ornaments with their interpretation for those players who are less conversant with this area would have been a most useful addition.

Cramerís critical condemnation against easy pieces suitable for the “lame fingers of unpracticed hacks or little women” may not pass the PC brigade today, but these sonatas certainly were not included in this splenetic outburst! They pose considerable challenges to the player, and some passages will require much practice, as will the clean integration of the many ornaments (indeed, the very first note of No. 1 is marked with a turn) and the application of the carefully marked dynamics, particularly in successive notes and sometimes even in different registers. The rewards, however, will be immense. Richly varied and, although showing clearly the influence of C.P.E. Bach, powerfully original, it is to be hoped that these sonatas will quickly find a place in the repertoires of all serious players and will take their rightful place in concerts. I await the remaining two volumes of pieces by Zinck with great enthusiasm.

©John Collins, GB-Worthing 2011

We are grateful to John Collins for permission to reproduce this review.
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