Sonata from “Die Bänkelsängerlieder” (c. 1684)
Daniel Speer (1636–1707)
ABOUT THIS PIECE
This seventeenth-century work remained anonymous for quite a long time, though it has recently been attributed to the German composer and theorist Daniel Speer, a church musician and teacher known for religious music and quodlibets, as well as for treatises, novels, and political commentary. This sonata, commonly referred to simply as “Die Bänkelsängerlieder” after the collection in which it was found, is now his most famous work. It was originally discovered in 1880 among a collection of dances and instrumental works that included parts not only for five wind instruments, but also one for a singer; the vocal part was filled with ribald jokes and poems. This makes sense; the term “Bänkelsänger” means “bench singer” and refers to the traveling musicians who performed in local taverns, standing on benches and singing off-color songs. This sonata was the twenty-ninth of forty-one pieces printed in this collection; the label “sonata” in this case simply means a work for musical instruments, drawn from the Italian term “sonare”—“to sound.” It wasn’t until the Classical era, in the late eighteenth century, that our modern, more formally constrained version of the sonata crystallized. This early sonata was originally scored for trumpet, cornetto, three trombones, and an accompanying keyboard instrument. It is now most commonly performed as a work for brass quintet.