Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Michael Robertson (University of Leeds, UK)

'Too good to be neglected and lost': The consort suites by Dietrich Becker in manuscript D-Hs M B/2463

Dietrich Becker was a town violinist in Hamburg from 1664 until his death in 1679. It was from here that he issued his two most important printed collections of instrumental music, Musicalische Frühlings-Fruchte of 1668 and Sonaten und Suiten of 1674. Becker’s music seems to have been widely circulated, some finding its way to England: Roger North’s 1728 ‘Musicall Grammarian’ describes a ‘forrein consort’ of Becker’s as ‘composed from 2 to 6 parts which was too good to be neglected and lost, as it is at present’. But even if some of Becker’s music was neglected and lost, four of his consort suites were included in a manuscript probably copied in England during the late eighteenth century. This manuscript is now in the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Carl von Ossietzky in Hamburg (M B/2463). The four suites are of the highest quality: but despite their inclusion in a reliable modern edition, they are largely unknown.

This paper will consider these four suites in relation to the Hamburg tradition of suite composition that flourished in the 1660s, 70s and 80s. Using the variation techniques that had been popular in Germany at the start of the seventeenth century, this tradition provided the last, and perhaps best, flowering of the variation suite. If the suites in M B/2463 represent a high point in Becker’s output, they also represent a high point in the Hamburg tradition of suite composition. As North says, they are ‘too good to be neglected’.

Last updated on 25 May 2004