- Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 4 in D major
- Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 1 in A major
- Adagio and Allegro, for solo viola da gamba in D minor, WKO 155
- Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 2 in D major
- Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 5 in A major
- Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 3 in D major
The question is an interesting one: what becomes of the people who invested in carriages in 1915, or newspapers in 2002? Or how about a viola da gamba in the late 1750s? Franz Xaver Hammer was an example of the latter, and this little album accurately dubs him the "Last Gambist"; by the time the pieces heard here were composed in the 1770s and 1780s, musical commentators were already referring to the gamba as a disused instrument. Hammer started his career at the Esterháza estate, where no less a personage than Haydn helped him out of a jam when he gouged out an oboist's eye, supposedly unintentionally, in a tavern brawl (Hammer, please don't hurt 'em!). The booklet essay, which contains several of these historical tidbits, follows Hammer to his longtime post at the ducal court in Ludwigslust, in northeastern Germany. He also played the cello, but he wrote a group of sonatas for his original instrument; the program presents five of these as well as one by another late gambist, Carl Friedrich Abel. There's a bit more to this disc than just the novelty of hearing the grave and somber viola da gamba cavorting through minuets and breezy allegros. The slow movements, especially the opening Adagio movements in the Abel "Adagio and Allegro in D minor" and two of the Hammer sonatas, are distinctly old-fashioned in style, raising the question of how and to what extent the instrument for which they were written forced them in that direction. Hammer was clearly capable of writing natural, Classical-style vocal-oriented melody. These pieces are accompanied sonatas, but the nature of the accompanying group is not always clear; two of the Hammer works are simply marked "basso," which is itself an old-fashioned concept. The performers of the Hamburger Ratsmusik opt for a variety of solutions, using both harpsichord and fortepiano, as well cello and theorbo. This is to the good, for it points up the odd mixture of musical thinking present in these works. Beyond that, these are pleasant, offbeat pieces, nicely performed and recorded.