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Georg Muffat’s Birthday and David Wilson’s Translation and Commentary

Georg Muffat was born on June 1 in 1653. A special day for Jubilate personnel manager, Magnificat violinist, Muffat expert and all around great guy David Wilson, who, in 2001, published a translation of texts from Florilegium Primum, Florilegium Secundum, and Auserlesene Instrumentalmusik together with very enlightening commentary on performance practice issues.

Born in Savoy, Muffat studied with Lully in Paris in the 1660s and then studied law at Ingolstadt. According to the biographical blurb at Goldberg Magazine, he later traveled to Vienna but could not obtain an official appointment and subsequently appeared in Prague (1677), ultimately finding a position in Salzburg in the service of Archbishop Max Gandolf, a post he held for over ten years.He was given leave to travel in the 1680s and studied in Rome with Pasquini ; some of his compositions were performed in Corelli ‘s house. From 1690 until his death he was Kapellmeister to Johann Philipp von Lamberg, Bishop of Passau.

Muffat was instrumental in bringing the French and Italian styles into German- speaking countries, the prefaces to his published works providing details about Lully ‘s and Corelli ‘s practice for his German audience. David’s book was reviewed by Kris Worsley in the Frankfurter Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft, excerpted below. The full review can be read here. Several pages can be read at Google Books. It can be ordered here.

The complex diversity of Georg Muffat’s musical inheritance causes many problems for the modern performer. The significance of his studies in France (with Lully) may be weighed up against that of his later affinity to Austria and Italy. This book provides an extremely useful translation of Muffat’s own instructions on the correct approach to his works. David K. Wilson (who was handed the project by the late Thomas Binkley) sets out to provide a complete, self-contained guide to Muffat’s writings on performance practice, prefacing the translations with a biographical sketch of Georg Muffat, and following them with a commentary which discusses the implications of these writings on Muffat’s Intentions, Instruments, Pitch and Temperament, Techniques, German Performance Practice, and Performance Settings.

The thoroughness of the study does help to clarify the confusion that all too easily results from Muffat’s own cosmopolitan style (Wilson admits that “questions can be asked about how representative of French music of the seventeenth century Muffat’s writings actually are” (page 119)). The biographical sketch that opens the volume stresses the importance of the political circumstances that framed Muffat’s life, from his beginnings in Savoy, his presumed studies with Lully in Paris, and his further travels to Vienna, Salzburg and Rome and his eventual settling in Passau. This emphasis on Muffat’s travels brings a welcome sense of clarity to the problem of the composer’s stylistic diversity and enlightens many of his comments in the texts in a most direct way.

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