1750: Berlin on the Potomac

Reproduction of a painting by Adolf Friedrich Erdmann Menzel, engraver and genre painter, 1815-1905. Concert Friedrichs des Grossen (A Concert of Frederick the Great) Aquatint photogravure?, hand-colored, mounted on paper embossed with plate mark. Dayton C. Miller Musical Iconography Collection, Music Division.

The following is a guest post by Daniel Walshaw, Music Division.

Berlin – before the nightclubs and the heavy metal concerts, before the cabarets and the brettls, even before the Berlin Philharmonic – evening musical entertainment was centered on a vibrant and growing chamber music tradition, nurtured by King Frederick II of Prussia. C.P.E. Bach, Johann Quantz, and Johann Gottlieb Graun were at the forefront of this mid-eighteenth century group of composers.

The musical gatherings offered by Frederick the Great were often trio sonatas that consisted of a combination of flutes, violins, and continuo. The pieces exercised a progressive musical language that pushed music out of the Baroque period and into the early classical period. Expressivity, sensuality, and order were the new compositional tools employed by these composers. This marvelous chamber music tradition is captured at the Library of Congress in an extensive collection of copyist manuscripts.

On Thursday, April 5, at noon in the Whittall Pavilion in the Jefferson Building, Daniel Boomhower, head of Reader Services for the Music Division at the Library of Congress, will share the secrets of Berlin chamber music as seen through the manuscripts held in the collections.  He will be joined by an outstanding ensemble of young performers from the University of Maryland that will provide musical examples – Caitlin McSherry, violin; Daniel McCarthy and Emily Cantrell, violas; and Gozde Yasar, cello. Come hear some 18th century Berlin chamber music!

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