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Rawson, Robert G.

From Olomouc to London: The Early Music of Gottfried Finger (c 1655-1730)

Ph.D. Royal Holloway, University of London, 2002
(robert@hudba.freeserve.co.uk)

Gottfried Finger (c 1655-1730), a little-known but prolific and versatile musician from Moravia, was a widely-travelled virtuoso whose experience of central European musical life exerted significant influence in England. Finger's early compositions were heavily influenced by his central European and Italian contemporaries, most notably Pavel Josef Vejvanovský (1633-1695), Heinrich Biber (1644-1704), and Antonio Bertali (1605-1669). His music for the viola da gamba (and to some extent for the violin) is typical of the dynamic, so-called Austro-Bohemian style practised by Biber and Bertali, while his trumpet music owes more to the style of Vejvanovský. In addition, Finger was an important early composer of instrumental pastorellas, pieces used for Christmas-time devotion in central Europe, the melodies of which became more widely quoted in the eighteenth century.

This study of Finger's music contains many new and significant discoveries about Finger and about seventeenth-century music in the Habsburg lands. First, Finger's handwriting is identified for the first time, and as a result many new pieces are now ascribed to him. A thematic catalogue of FInger's music is included. which is cross-referenced and includes all known sources, both printed and manuscript. Second, I show that the music from Finger's early career is a representative result of his early life in Moravia, and it reveals the strong influences of the Habsburg lands after the Counter-Reformation. This is especially apparent in his surviving pastorellas.

Third, while Finger's principal instrument was the viola da gamba, of which he was a great virtuoso, he also played the trumpet, bassoon, baryton, bass ("Baß"), recorder, and lute. As a result he was able to supply detailed information on these instruments, and many more, for James Talbot's (unfinished) treatise on music. Finger was instrumental in bringing performance practices from Moravia to England. For example, his apparent ability to "lip" the non-harmonic tones of the trumpet into tune (probably learned from Vewjvanovský) drew attention in London. In an article which appeared in The Gentlemen's Journal (London, 1691) Finger's minor-key music for the trumpet was described as "a thing previously thought impossible for an instrument designed for a sharp key".

The most important questions facing the study of seventeenth-century instrumental music are addressed in case-studies of Finger's music. Through this approahc, he is revealed to be one of the most significant virtuosos of his era.