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Christoph GRAUPNER (1683 - 1760): "Lass mein Herz - Cantatas & Overtures"

Dorothee Mields, sopranoa
Harmonie Universelle
Dir: Florian Deuter, Mónica Waisman

rec: May 15 - 16, 2017, Cologne, Trinitatiskirche
Accent - ACC 24337 (© 2018) (80'24")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid (GWV 1142/11)ad; Concerto for two violins, strings and bc in g minor (GWV 334)bc; Overture in e minor (GWV 442); Reiner Geist, laß doch mein Herz (GWV 1138/11)a; Verleih, daß ich aus Herzensgrund (GWV 1114/16)a

Emmanuel Laporte, Ina Stock, oboe; Rebecca Mertens, bassoon; Milena Schuster, Paula Waisman, Mónica Waisman (soloc), Frauke Heiwolt, Sibille Klepper, violin; Florian Deuter, violin (solob), violad; Christian Goosses, viola; Beatrice Hozer-Graf, cello; Christopher Scotney, double bass; Sören Leupold, theorbo; Francesco Corti, harpsichord, organ

For a long time Georg Philipp Telemann was not really taken seriously. Some of his chamber music was regularly performed, such as his recorder or flute sonatas, and some collections, such as the Musique de table, received interest, but most of his concertos and overtures and almost his complete vocal oeuvre was ignored. That has drastically changed over the last ten to fifteen years, and now he ranks among the most frequently-performed and recorded composers. I see something similar happening to Christoph Graupner. In the early years of this century Siegbert Rampe devoted some discs to his instrumental works, especially the orchestral suites. The Canadian harpsichordist Geneviève Soly recorded a large part of Graupner's keyboard works and some of his instrumental and vocal music. It is only recently that labels have embraced the growing interest in his oeuvre. One of them is CPO, which in recent years has released various discs with cantatas, which have been reviewed on this site.

I am very happy to review another disc, this time a mixture of sacred cantatas and instrumental items. The three cantatas all date from early in Graupner's career, when he had just started his service to Ernst Ludwig, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, first as vice-Kapellmeister under Wolfgang Carl Briegel, and then, after the latter's death in 1712, as Kapellmeister. In this position he was responsible for the sacred and secular vocal music - including opera - as well as the instrumental music for the entertainment of his employer. In his duties as composer of cantatas for the Sundays and feastdays of the ecclesiastical year he was assisted by his deputy, Gottfried Grünewald, who was also an excellent bass singer. This explains why he composed a number of solo cantatas for bass and why in many of his other cantatas the bass is given demanding arias. The other pillar in the performances of sacred music was the soprano. At the court the soprano parts were not sung by a boy; at an absolutist court, the Prince could disregard the ban on female performers in church. In the early days of Graupner in Darmstadt he could rely on two sopranos, which had experience in opera: Anna Maria Schober and Magaretha Susanna Kayser. In 1711 the Elector engaged the leading soprano of the Leipzig opera, Elisabeth Döbricht. She was supposed to sing opera in the first place, but there can be little doubt that she also took care of the soprano parts in Graupner's cantatas. Verleih, dass ich aus Herzensgrund, which dates from 1716, may have been performed by Mademoiselle Lisgen Hesse, as she was called after her marriage to the court gambist Ernst Christian Hesse.

The two other cantatas are from 1711. All three cantatas are settings of librettos from the pen of Georg Christian Lehms, who had written librettos for Johann David Heinichen's operas in Leipzig and had been appointed court librarian in Darmstadt in 1710. Johann Sebastian Bach also set some of his librettos, published in Gottgefälliges Kirchen-Opffer. Reiner Geist, lass doch mein Herz is for Whit Sunday. The cantata opens with an aria for the full ensemble: soprano, two oboes, bassoon, strings and bc: "Pure spirit, let my heart become the temple of your dwelling". It is followed by an accompagnato; Graupner generally preferred recitatives with accompaniment to secco recitatives. Then another aria follows: it is has the traditional dacapo form, but after the B section Graupner includes a short accompanied recitative; only then the A section is repeated. The ensuing secco recitative turns into an arioso at the end. Another aria closes the cantata: "I already stretch my weary hands, O God, O God, longingly after you". The latter words are eloquently illustrated in the music. Graupner came from the opera - he had cooperated with Reinhard Keiser in Hamburg - and that shows in his vocal writing in this solo cantata. Especially in the opening aria he explores the upper end of the soloist's range. Also notable is the coloratura in the closing aria on the word "Ende" ([a long-desired] end).

Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid is written for the first Sunday after Trinity. The central subject is human life as a "path of thorns", as the first accompagnato expresses it. The cantata opens with the chorale, which was also used by Bach in two of his cantatas (although as part of a different libretto and for different Sundays). It is introduced by the oboe, playing the chorale melody, and strings. It is followed by the accompagnato I already mentioned, and then follows an aria in which the instruments effectively depict the text: "The world is a confused house of wailing, for there sometimes comes a storm, and sometimes sunshine". After another recitative the soprano sings an aria which is notable for its two obbligato viola parts. The cantata closes with a powerful aria for the entire ensemble of soprano, two oboes, bassoon, strings and bc, on the text: "Should Heaven, World and Earth come to break, so break, Jesus, only my heart." The words "brich mir" (break me) are followed by a general pause.

Verleih, dass ich aus Herzensgrund is a cantata for the third Sunday after Epiphany; it is scored for soprano, two violins, strings and bc. The Epistle of that Sunday is from Romans 12, where Paul speaks about Christian life, including love of one's neighbour. This cantata particularly highlights the care for the poor: "I shall take pity on the poor in all misery when they are plagued by thirst and hunger". The cantata opens with the third stanza from the hymn Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; this was one of the hymns for that Sunday, for which Johann Sebastian Bach composed his cantata on the same chorale (BWV 177). The chorale is here interrupted by two accompagnati. After a recitative the soprano sings another aria, which is unconventional in its structure: The A section is followed by a recitative, an arioso and a recitative, and then the A section is repeated. Another recitative follows and the cantata closes with an aria. The latter is a powerful statement: "Thus I am God's child, so nothing can damn me". There is coloratura on "verdammen" (damn) and the word "Ruh" (peace) is set to a long note.

These three works are recorded here for the first time, and they are perfect examples of Graupner's skills as a composer of sacred cantatas. One would wish that sopranos, searching for music to perform and to record, would not only turn to Bach's solo cantatas, which have been recorded so many times. These cantatas are wonderful, and deserve to be performed on a regular basis in the churches and concert halls of this world. Dorothee Mields is the perfect advocate for Graupner's vocal music: she is on excellent form here and fnds exactly the right approach to these works. Her diction is immaculate, which strongly contributes to the intelligibility of the text. Her ornamentation is modest, but stylish. She receives outstanding support from Harmonie Universelle, which plays the instrumental parts with much sensitivity.

It also contributes two instrumental works to the programme. The Overture in e minor is scored for two oboi da selva, strings and bc; the term oboe da selva is used by the likes of Graupner and Fasch for what is likely an oboe da caccia. An overture in the typical French ABA form is followed by six dances. The oboi da caccia are mostly not playing colla parte with the strings, as was the habit in France, but have mostly independent parts, and are now and then in dialogue with the strings. The other piece is a double concerto for two violins. Like many of Telemann's concertos it is in four movements; the violins are mostly not in dialogue, but rather play as a pair. The most virtuosic parts are in the closing movement.

These two works round off one of the most impressive discs I have heard lately, and another substantial addition to the growing Graupner discography. I urge anyone to investigate it, and I am sure you will return to it more than once.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

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