Count Unico van Wassenaer: the mysterious composer

La Sfera Armoniosa released an album with the Concerti Armonici by diplomat, politician and extremely talented composer Count Unico van Wassenaer. The third album in the Dutch Masters Series was received very well and Dutch classical music magazine awarded it with the maximum score. The album is available on all streaming services, as CD and as high resolution and immersive sound download.

Fentross places different accents than predecessors Jan Willem de Vriend and Ton Koopman: less sharp and pointed, more warmth and intimacy. Nevertheless, the sound remains agile, lively and full of tension. You feel the close bond between musicians and audience and you feel included in that atmosphere. In that respect, the ensemble lives up to its name.”


Count Unico van Wassenaer


Unico van Wassenaer (Delden, 30 oktober 1692 – Den Haag, 9 november 1766) came from a noble family, in which it was not done to make yourself known as a composer. Therefore, count Unico van Wassenaer wrote his music without revealing his identity.

Van Wassenaer was known as a keen and effective organiser and governor. After studying law at Leiden University, he undertook study tours across Europe. As a result, he built up a network in the highest circles. He came into contact with Duke Friedrich Ludwig von Württemberg, to whom he dedicated three sonatas for recorder and continuo.

Around the mid-eighteenth century, Van Wassenaer fulfilled several diplomatic missions as ambassador and “minister” of the Republic of the United Provinces, including in Cologne and France.

Concerti Armonici

Van Wassenaer probably composed the Concerti Armonici in the thirties and forties of the 18th century for the house concerts he and Count Willem Bentinck organised for a limited audience of noblemen. In 1740 they were published by Ricciotti in The Hague with a dedication to Count Willem Bentinck, though without any mention of the composer.

All this caused confusion around the paternity of these compositions until 1980, when musicologist Albert Dunning discovered that beautiful music first attributed to the famous Italian composer Pergolesi (but also Vivaldi and Händel) had in fact been composed by a Dutch count.

Van Wassenaer’s Concerti Armonici are characterised by great harmonic richness and melodic inventiveness with an Italian influence. Each concerto contains four movements with two fast and two slow movements each.

The compositions charm the listener with their striking sonority, alternating between lyrical passages and moments of reflection and dynamic-dancing movements.


Das Ensemble La Sfera Armoniosa  unter der Leitung von Mike Fentross spielt die Concerti für Streicher und Basso continuo mit viel Hingabe und Eleganz. Alle Musiker scheinen sich bewusst zu sein, dass es sich bei von Wassenaers Musik um etwas ganz Besonderes handelt. Das wunderbare Spiel des Ensembles wird der Qualität der Musik in jedem Moment gerecht. – Alain Steffen – Pizzicato *****

Unico van Wassenaer

The Van Wassenaer album was recorded live in Theater De Vest in Alkmaar. This recording is available on various streaming services, on CD and as a high resolution PCM or DSD stereo and immersive sound download.

Visit Challenge Records or your cd-store for a hardcopy of this production on cd:

A download in high resolution audio and multichannel sound is available at Spirit of Turtle.

Lidewij van der Voort: soloist, first violin & concert master
Mike Fentross: conductor, theorbo & baroque guitar
Kano Imada: second violin
Anna Lester (violin), Tomoe Badiarova (violin), Esther van Eijk (viola), Octavie Dostaler Lalonde (cello), Jacopo Ristori (cello), Teun Braken (organ & harpsichord) and Severiano Paoli (double bass)

The concert in Alkmaar and the album recordings were made possible by the City of AlkmaarErnst & YoungSENA, and Friends of La Sfera Armoniosa.