Friday, 25 September 2015


“The line between greatness and obscurity is very, very small.” - Peabo Bryson

There are so many composers of the past of whom we know very little and whose works have vanished into oblivion. Every now and then some manuscript turns up and performers may discover this new music, which delights listeners. I have been fascinated these past few months with such composers and have heard some really marvellous music treading less known paths and cutting away undergrowth to discover new listening grounds. Such is the case with the composer today in Music Saturday.

Johann Friedrich Ruhe (1699 - 1776) was a German composer and concertmaster of the Baroque period. He and his music have been almost completely forgotten, and we know very little about his life also.

He was born in Halberstadt in the year 1699, and nothing more is known of him until his adulthood when we know he resided at the courts of Wolfenbüttel as a member of the court orchestra in Braunschweig and Halberstadt, where he served as concertmaster. In 1734 he took the appointment of cantor at the cathedral in Magdeburg, where he died in 1776. It is amazing to learn that even though he actively participated in the musical life of the city for over 40 years, after his death he has been delegated to obscurity.

An autograph of his suite for viola da gamba and cello, and sonatas for viola da gamba and basso continuo are his only known works today. These scores are preserved at the Thuringian State Archives (Thüringischen Staatsarchives) in Greiz. . It is unclear how and when the manuscript was sent to the archive and the date of composition is not known. The works seem to be in the style of transition between the late baroque and early classical periods.

In any case, the works are delightful to listen to and we have to thank dedicated performers like the violist da gamba Sándor Szászvárosi for bringing such gems to our ears. The CD is available from Hungaroton.


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful music from someone I never heard of... As you say, we give preferential listening time to the "big names".