ACRONYM: Johann Christoph Pezel: Opus Musicum Sonatarum: the “Alphabet Sonatas”

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[AN OLDE FOCUS RELEASE] Period music ensemble ACRONYM features the quirky and unique "Alphabet" Sonatas by Polish born Johann Christoph Pezel, a composer who occupied a position of prominence in Leipzig in the late 17th century. 


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 136:58
01Sonata Abella in G
Sonata Abella in G
02Sonata Baccha in d
Sonata Baccha in d
03Sonata Cadmea in a
Sonata Cadmea in a
04Sonata Dejanira in e
Sonata Dejanira in e
05Sonata Ebura in B-flat
Sonata Ebura in B-flat
06Sonata Fabaria in F
Sonata Fabaria in F
07Sonata Gaba in C
Sonata Gaba in C
08Sonata Hoemonia in g
Sonata Hoemonia in g
09Sonata Ja in D
Sonata Ja in D
10Sonata Kohlerina in A
Sonata Kohlerina in A
11Sonata Laconia in E
Sonata Laconia in E
12Sonata Macra in b
Sonata Macra in b
13Sonata Nabathea in G
Sonata Nabathea in G
14Sonata Octavia in d
Sonata Octavia in d
15Sonata Padusa in a
Sonata Padusa in a
16Sonata Quinquatria in e
Sonata Quinquatria in e
17Sonata Rha in B-flat
Sonata Rha in B-flat
18Sonata Sabaea in F
Sonata Sabaea in F
19Sonata Tamara in C
Sonata Tamara in C
20Sonata Vacuna in g
Sonata Vacuna in g
21Sonata Wallona in D
Sonata Wallona in D
22Sonata Xantippea in A
Sonata Xantippea in A
23Sonata Yvana in E
Sonata Yvana in E
24Sonata Zacchantea in b
Sonata Zacchantea in b
25Sonata Ciacona in B-flat
Sonata Ciacona in B-flat

Directed by founding ICE cellist Kivie Cahn-Lipman, ACRONYM (Abella Cadmea Rha Octavia Nabathea Yvana Macra) was formed in August, 2012, to make the present recording. The twelve-member string band is devoted to resurrecting music of the past, giving modern premieres of long-lost works by forgotten composers. Their second disc, instrumental sonatas by Antonio Bertali, can also be found on Olde Focus Recordings. Upcoming projects include concert tours of Pezel and Bertali, as well as the first recordings and modern performances of music by Samuel Capricornus, Johann Rosenmller, and more. Visit for more information.

Johann Christoph Pezel was born in what is now Poland, but spent much of his career in Leipzig, Germany, occupying various positions within the city's musical hierarchy. Pezel's Opus Musicum Sonatarum was published in Frankfurt in 1686, and he dedicated it to the councils of the “Hexapolis,” the six principal cities of Upper Lusatia (Bautzen, Gorlitz, Lauban, Kamenz, Lobau, and Zittau). Opus Musicum Sonatarum is a collection of twenty-five sonatas for two violins, three violas, bassoon or violone, and basso continuo.

The sonatas are organized by key; two sets of twelve sonatas each have key signatures in a sequence of ascending fifths starting from G (with a diminished fifth from E to B-flat to prevent travel to overly difficult keys). Perhaps the most idiosyncratic aspect of Opus Musicum Sonatarum is that each of the first twenty-four sonatas was given an alphabetical feminine name (e.g., Abella, Baccha, Cadmea . . . Xantippea, Yvana, Zacchantea). Many of these represent historical and mythological characters; for instance, Xantippea and Dejanira respectively were the wives of Socrates and Heracles.


Baroque string ensemble ACRONYM is dedicated to giving modern premieres of the wild instrumental music of the seventeenth century. The group formed in 2012 to create the first recording of the "Alphabet Sonatas" of Johann Pezel. ACRONYM's following disc, sonatas by Antonio Bertali, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim; Alex Ross selected it as a CD pick, and Early Music America Magazine wrote "the idiomatic performances and spacious recording by these young musicians are absolutely first rate. This is a disc ... belonging in everyone's collection." In 2015 ACRONYM released a third album—the first recordings of Giovanni Valentini's instrumental works—which was praised in Gramophone for being "played with expertise, enthusiasm, and an almost tactile sense of timbre." In 2016 ACRONYM released its fourth album: Wunderkammer. Upcoming projects include the first recording of Samuel Capricornus's monumental "Jubilus Bernhardi" with the Bach Choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.
04 Feb, 2014

Introducing Olde Focus Recordings

Three new February releases mark the debut of  Olde Focus Recordings, a new line of recordings focusing on new recordings of gems from the early music repertoire. Curated by cellist and director of period ensemble ACRONYM, Kivie Cahn-Lipman, Olde Focus kicks its series off with recordings of three 17th century composers deserving of greater attention, Antonio Bertali, Johann Pezel, and David …

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American Record Guide

This is a complete recording of the 25 sonatas in the Opus Musicum Sonatarum by Johann Christoph Pezel (1639-94). He was employed in Leipzig as a violinist and became a member of the Stadtpfeifer in 1664. That was the top wind band that would play daily from the city's tower at 10 AM and 6 PM. Large portions of the notes here are devoted to the politics of professional music making in Leipzig, which so deeply affected Pezel's career.

Aside from all of that, his music is gorgeous, and composed for a remarkably large ensemble consisting of 2 violins, 3 violas, bassoon or violone, and basso continuo. The sonatas are organized by key, ascending by fifths from G. They also have programmatic titles that proceed alphabetically from Abella to Zacchantea. Their musical character suggests some latent program, but it is unclear how the titles relate to the music -- they are all feminine nouns, derived from Greek mythology, Roman cities, and Roman festivals.

This is such compelling music -- full of affective variety and technical challenges for the players. They are multi-sectional sonatas, which means the players must change course "on the fly," sometimes radically, from one character to another. The result is very entertaining. Notes are in English.

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