He was among those who moved with the prince’s establishment from Ruppin to Rheinsberg in 1736, and on Frederick’s accession in 1740 was installed as harpsichordist in the court Kapelle at Berlin. In 1741 he was appointed musician to the king’s sister, Princess Amalia, a title which appears on contemporary publications of his music and which he was still using in the 1760s. Although he remained at Berlin until his death on 17th February 1763, his name is not included in Marpurg’s register of the Kapelle (1754); this implies that he left the orchestra at some point, possibly after the 1741 appointment. As a composer Schaffrath restricted himself to instrumental music, producing a wide range of chamber and orchestral works.
His main interest lay in keyboard music, and various collections of his sonatas (for keyboard alone and keyboard with melody instrument) were published during his lifetime. Almost all the harpsichord sonatas are in three movements with the standard fast–slow–fast arrangement. The first Allegro is usually in sonata form, but the opening part of the exposition is frequently omitted from the recapitulation, and when Schaffrath wrote a full recapitulation he often varied the exposition material by condensing or expanding certain sections. Schaffrath’s keyboard writing in these sonatas is idiomatic yet simple: scale passages and broken-chord figures are employed with good effect but the texture is thin – seldom more than two parts – and the left hand plays a subordinate role.
The concertos show the same approach to keyboard writing. Here Schaffrath followed Vivaldian formal methods, using ritornello structure in all three movements and distinguishing clearly between tutti and solo sections. Stylistically, Schaffrath’s music belongs to the transitional era. His works display characteristic galant features: tuneful melodies, short phrases, thin texture, slow harmonic rhythm, and ubiquitous triplet figures. However, he also had a marked talent for counterpoint, a skill apparent not only in the occasional fugal movement (e.g., op.2 no 6, second movement), but also in the disciplined part-writing of orchestral works and in his frequent use of imitation.
Although active in Berlin, Schaffrath was not particularly affected by the ‘sensitive’ north German style. Exceptional works reveal the influence of C.P.E. Bach in their wide-ranging themes and harmonic asperities, but Schaffrath generally preferred a less emotional style, more in keeping with Hasse’s music than with the Empfindsamkeit. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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