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Christoph GRAUPNER (1683 - 1760): "Concertos & Ouvertures"

L'Arpa festante
Dir: Rien Voskuilen

rec: Sept 6 - 8, 2017, Müllheim (D), Martinskirche
Accent - ACC 24350 (© 2018) (73'27")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto for two oboes, strings and bc in B flat (GWV 342); Concerto for two trumpets, timpani, strings and bc in D (GWV 318); Overture for transverse flute, strings and bc in a minor (GWV 478); Overture for two transverse flutes, strings and bc in g minor (GWV 470)

Monika Kleinle, Christine Brandauer, transverse flute; Meike Güldenhaupt, Katharina Andres, oboe; Guy Ferber, Krisztian Kovats, trumpet; Uschi Bruckdorfer, bassoon; Christoph Hesse, Angelika Balzer, Peter Haarmann-Thiemann, Michael Gusenbauer, Ruth Ellner, Johanna Weber, Margarete Härtl, violin; Max Bock, Franz Rauch, viola; Anja Enderle, Gregor Anthony, cello; Haralt Martens, violone; Andreas Nachtsheim, lute; Rien Voskuilen, harpsichord

It is not an exaggeration to state that we are in the middle of a true Graupner renaissance. Especially since the beginning of this century his oeuvre receives more and more attention, but it is only in the last five years or so that his output is thoroughly researched and explored. Several discs with sacred cantatas have been released, but his instrumental music also deserves to be performed and recorded as the present disc shows.

The programme comprises specimens of the two main genres of 'orchestral music' of the German Baroque: the overture or suite and the concerto with solo parts for one or several instruments.

The overture attests to what was the ideal of many German composers: the goûts réunis - the mixture of the French and the Italian styles. Graupner was one of the main contributors to this genre, alongside Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Friedrich Fasch. The basic scoring of such works was for two oboes, bassoon, strings and basso continuo, but composers now and then departed from this scoring, and Graupner was one of them. The two overtures included here attest to that.

The Overture in a minor is scored for transverse flute, strings and basso continuo. Those who have a more than average knowledge of music from this period will probably think here of Telemann's overture in the same key, in which the strings are joined by a recorder. Exactly for that reason it is one of his most popular works. However, Graupner's overture is very different. Telemann treats the recorder as a true solo instrument, and this way refers to the Italian style. In Graupner's overture the transverse flute mostly plays colla parte with the first violin. This is very much in line with the way wind instruments participated in the French opera orchestra since Jean-Baptiste Lully. It is only in the penultimate movement that the flute is given a solo role. It is notable that this movement is another typical French element, in that it is a character piece, called 'Le Contentement' - the satisfaction. The overture ends with a gigue en echo, in which episodes are consistently repeated piano.

The Overture in g minor, scored for two transverse flutes, strings and basso continuo, is also unusual in several ways. The first surprise comes in the opening movement. Orchestral suites usually open with a movement, called ouverture, which consists of three sections (ABA), of which the first is dominated by a dotted rhythm and the second is fugal. However, Graupner completely omits the dotted rhythm in the A section. Whereas here the two flutes play colla parte with the first violin, in the B section the second flute joins the second violin, but soon the two flutes take a different ride and this is the introduction of what is to come in the ensuing dance movements, in which the flutes play a more independent role. This way Graupner incorporates Italian elements in this basically French form. In addition to the common dances, we hear a plaisanterie as the second movement, and the gavotte is written in the form of a rondeau.

It is known that Telemann had strong reservations towards the solo concerto, a product of the Italian style. He did not like virtuosity, which in his view was too dominant in Italian music. If one listens to Graupner's Concerto in B flat for two oboes, strings and basso continuo, one could think that he agreed with his colleague. The two oboes always play as a pair, and they are mainly in dialogue with the two violins, which for most of the time imitate each others thematic material. Although Graupner adopts the Vivaldian concerto form in three movements, this work has little in common with the concertos of his Italian colleague. However, we should not draw general conclusions from this piece. Graupner also wrote some bassoon concertos which are technically very challenging.

The last work on this disc attests again to Graupner's original mind. The scoring is already unusual: two trumpets, four timpani, strings and basso continuo. Timpani were often used in combination with trumpets, even when that was not specifically indicated, but then mainly in larger-scale vocal works. In Telemann's concertante works with trumpet parts, we don't see the participation of timpani. In this concerto they play a remarkable role, as Bernd Heyder states in his liner-notes. "With the notes d, g, a and h [sic; h=b], four timpani not only contribute as the usual bass foundation of the two brass instruments, they also enrich the pure string passages with occasional tone sequences - sometimes in forte, sometimes in piano and sometimes in pianissimo." As was common practice at the time, the trumpets are silent in the slow movement (which here is very short). In the last movement they play a kind of battaglia.

If we needed more evidence that Graupner was more than just another voice in the choir, we find it here in abundance. It is not without a reason that his oeuvre receives increasing interest from performers. It seems that it also finds much resonance among music lovers at large. His oeuvre is anything but predictable, and one seldom hears something familiar in his compositions. That is the case here as well. We have here four fully original works, which are very interesting contributions to the repertoire of German instrumental music from the first half of the 18th century. They are served supremely well by L'arpa festante, whose interpretations are spot-on. Most of the music is of a lyrical nature, and that comes perfectly off through the fine and subtle playing of the strings. The flutes and oboes are also very well played, and the trumpets deliver impressive performances.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

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