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Music of the Augustan Age

Musicians at Court

Let us now discuss the musicians who served at Dresden. The conditions that existed at Dresden for music making meant that applications for positions far exceeded requirements and must have been a highly desirable goal for a musician. Financially only Quantz was ever "poached" from court, however we do know that Sylvius Leopold Weiss declined the offer of a higher salary elsewhere. The development of the Hofkapelle was the main responsibility of the two concertmasters' Woulmyer and Johann Georg Pisendel. Woulmyer who was an excellent violinist, introduced unified bowing and devoted himself to technical perfection. Quantz in his autobiography said that "he never heard an orchestra better than the Dresden one under Woulmyer." Pisendel, the leading German violinist of his day, cultivated musical expression through a sensitive manner of playing. By 1728 at the latest Pisendel had established himself as the chief advocate, the arbiter elagantiarum of the "new" mixed or German taste. Among the other virtuosi who served at court were the renowned lutenist Sylvius Leopold Weiss, the panataleonist and violinist Pantaleon Hebenstreit, the violinist F.M. Cattaneo, the violist Johann Adam, the cellists G.F.M. and A.F. Picinetti and A.A. de Rossi, Carl Frederich Abel playing viola da gamba, the bass players' G. Personelli and G.F. Kastner, the harpsichordist and organist Christian Pezold, the flautist's Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin, his pupil Johann Joachim Quantz and Michael Blochwitz (Blochwitz and Quantz were both oboists before switching to flute), the oboists Francis LeRiche and Johann Christian Richter and the horn players' Fischer, Samm, the brother's Schindler and Anton Joseph Hampel.

Among the Kapellmeisters and composers who were inspired by this virtuosic ensemble were Jan Dismas Zelenka, Johann David Heinichen, Giovanni Alberto Ristori, Johann Adolf Hasse, Johann Georg Schurer and Johann Christoph Schmidt. The extent to which Antonio Lotti, Francesco Maria Veracini and Nicola Porpora, who spent only brief periods at Dresden, influenced the Hofkapelle is more difficult to determine. In keeping with the Dresden aesthetic that music was above all to be enjoyed, several less known members of the Kapelle also contributed works for performance which must have lived up to contemporary expectations.

If you have any comments, additions or questions I would be really pleased to hear from you!

Copyright © 1996-2000, David Charlton.