Hof-Capelle Carlsruhe & Kristin Kares – Hommage à Joseph Aloys Schmittbaur

hommage

There’s a strange delight in hearing the glass harmonica. The what? The glass harmonica. No, you don’t fucking blow into it. You play that bitch with your fingers. It makes a similar sound to when some dude wets the tip of their finger, circles the rim of their crystal glass, and stares at you all wide-eyed like a serial killer while the glass lets out that hypnotic hum. Benjamin Franklin invented this shit back in 1761 like a total weirdo. The instrument is strange, eerie in the same way a circus is, yet somehow it’s cool. It fits into that Amélie or Delicatessen world where some really attractive person dressed in monochromatic clothing plays an eclectic instrument. What?! That svelte shy blonde with the perfect skin all dressed in orange and blue plays the glass harmonica? Mais oui, c’est un putain de film de Jeunet. 

So, onto the next question that’s most likely on everyone’s minds. Who in the hot living caramel fuck is Joseph Aloys Schmittbaur? 

Don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize the name. Not a lot of people do. First off, he is old school. Like, even for the 1700s this motherfucker is old school. For context, this dude and Mozart were dropping tunes around the same time. As Mozart dropped those forward thinking hits Schmittbaur was like, “You know what? Fuck that New Age Mozart shit. I’m going back to the classics.” Some people in the classical game call this shtick “preclassical”. 

Schmittbaur was a German composer (no shit, just look at that fucking name), a music teacher, and he also made instruments. In the late 1700s, people knew him. He was a thing. Later on, everyone thought his sickest jams were written by Haydn. Ouch. This album is dedicated to Schmittbaur. Also, it’s first press. The majority of this music has never been recorded before. 

I don’t listen to this the same way I do Mozart. I listen to Schmittbaur like I would a ’70 hair metal band: according to the time and style they are trying to portray. So if you compare this shit to Haydn? This motherfucker is awesome. The orchestrations are as dramatic as preteens on first dates. The lows are oceans and the highs are peaks. Everyone on the album plays like total badasses (Shogo Fujii, Antonello Cola: oboes. Ulrich Dürr: timpani. Hans-Joachim Berg: soloviolin. Benedetta Costantini: violin. Gabriela Bradley: violoncello. Jane Lazarovic: violone. Philipp Maguerre: veriphon. Kirstin Kares: Harpsichord and pipe). And that glass harmonica I mentioned earlier? That shit breaks up these symphonies like a high-pitched bouncer at the club. Shit is tight.

There’s a tendency in the classical world to keep playing the top forty hits until everyone aggressively vomits on each other. But there’s tons of overlooked classical music that’s never been recorded. I get that classical musicians need some stacks so they gotta chuck out shit everyone knows. But what if, somehow, people actually started to listen to music they don’t instantly recognize? Shit, those people would have to be pretty cool. They’d be hella smart as well. They’d emit sexual pheromones so strong, shit could melt a car. But I guess not. Only people that listen to this album would have all of that. But, an audiophiliac can dream, motherfuckers. An audiophiliac can dream. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts

  1. This is some obscure shit. Haven’t listened yet, but I have a pet alternate musical timeline in my head, where instead of fizzling out, ideas wise (excuse my lazy siding with the general narrative, it’s only for the purposes of this though experiment), rock music after the garage rock revival started taking inspiration from much broader sources as the internet bloomed, and having grown up when reissue culture (Ethiopiques, Blood and Fire, et al) morphed into the interesting thing it is today. This is relevant because among my grab-bag of ideas, was how slow/ballad/singer-songwriter-y rock songs would evolve. I essentially went with that they’d generally have a mixture of organic-electronic instrumentation – think Björk or ‘Kid A’, but more organic by half. Toumani Diabete albums, plus King Tubby reissues, plus ‘Tri repetae’. And part and parcel was instrumentation, which in my head, ranged from Kora, to Steel Drums, to Harmoniums, to, yes, Glass Harmonica. So I’ll be sure to give this one a listen, if only for the sake of my own feverish theory of alternate history. Thanks as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was sorta a thought experiment, to try and imagine a world where wider musical appreciation (and synthesis) was a norm. It’ll probably come up every now and then in my comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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