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Christoph GRAUPNER (1683 - 1760): "Der Herr ist auferstanden - Arias & Duets for Eastertide"

Franz Vitzthum, altoa; Georg Poplutz, tenorb
Dir: Martin Jopp

rec: Feb 1 - 4, 2021, Gießen, Petruskirche
Accent - ACC 24382 (© 2022) (77'17")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Auf, frohlockt mit vollen Chören (GWV 1136/25) (Die Leidenszeit ist nun zu Ende - Gottlob, der Himmel steht mir offen, rec & ariab); Christus ist nicht eingegangen (GWV 1135/40) (Bittet, so werdet ihr nehmenab); Concerto for two violins, strings and bc in g minor (GWV 335)cd; Frohlocke, werte Christenheit (GWV 1128/28) (Der Herr ist auferstandenab); Jesus lebt (GWV 1128/44) (Erschrocknes Zion, traure nicht - Zion lacht in reiner Freude, rec & ariab); Mein Freudenlicht hat sich verborgen (GWV 1133/27) (Mein Freudenlicht hat sich verborgenab); Nehmet das Wort an (GWV 1134/23) (Die neue Kreatur - Ach reines Licht, rec & ariaa); Overture in c minor (GWV 413; Seid ihr mit Christo auferstanden (GWV 1136/28) (Das eitle Wesen muss verschwinden, recb; Eile, Seele, in die Höhe, duetab; Mein Jesus reicht mir schon die Hände, reca); Sein Rat ist wunderbarlich (GWV 1136/23) (Sollt ich Kreuz und Leiden scheuen?a); Verfallnes Salem, gute Nacht (GWV 1129/43) (Was, Pilgrim, trauerst du - Christi Leiden, rec & duetab); Wär Gott nicht mit uns (GWV 1137/30) (Babel, lass den tollen Eiferab)

Martin Jopp (soloc), Jörn-Sebastian Kuhlmann (solod), Adam Lord, Katerina Ozaki, Alexandra Wiedner-Lorenz, Marie Verweyen, violin; Friederike Kremers, Ursula Plagge-Zimmermann, viola; Katie Stephens, cello; Christian Zincke, violone; Henrike Seitz, harpsichord, organ

Christoph Graupner's music enjoys great interest these days, alongside that of his friend and colleague Telemann. In both cases it is the sacred music that is given much attention, whereas until a few years ago it was mostly the instrumental music that was performed and recorded. Both composers have suffered from the comparison with Johann Sebastian Bach, and that has had its effect especially in the field of vocal music. Nowadays performers have recognized that such a comparison makes little sense, as stylistically they are different and have to be assessed with different parameters. Martin Bail, in the liner-notes to the disc under review, rightly emphasizes the galant character of Graupner's music, which explains why counterpoint plays a less prominent role in his oeuvre than in that of Bach.

In recent years quite a number of discs with cantatas by Graupner have been released; many of them were reviewed on this site. One thing that is striking, is the dominance of the soprano and bass parts in these works. Whereas churches had to comply with the general rule that women were not allowed to sing in the liturgy, aristocrats were free to follow their own principles and preferences. Graupner's employer attracted several renowned opera singers. Two of them were appointed in 1709, at the same time as Graupner, two years later followed by a third. This was certainly inspired by his wish to perform operas. Like Graupner, the three singers were involved in the Oper am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg, and the composition of operas was also to be the main task of Graupner. However, for financial reasons, Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt had to give up his plans for regular opera performances. As a result, Graupner had to confine himself to the composition and performance of sacred and secular cantatas as well as orchestral and chamber music. He made a virtue of necessity and explored the presence of female virtuosos at the court chapel to write technically demanding parts for soprano. For the bass parts, he could rely on Gottfried Grünewald, his deputy, who was an excellent singer. Graupner knew him from his time in Leipzig, where Grünewald was a singer in the St Thomas Choir and a pupil of Thomaskantor Schelle. He had also sung in the Hamburg opera, and therefore he was perfectly suited to perform in sacred cantatas, alongside the three ladies.

This explains why in the recordings of cantatas that have been released, alto and tenor play a relatively minor role. Franz Vitzthum and Georg Poplutz, who have been involved in several of these recordings, may have wished to record more of Graupner's music and have looked for duets and arias for their respective voices. The result is the present disc which says that it includes arias and duets for Eastertide. That could cause some misunderstanding. Today, Eastertide is mostly confined to the two days of Easter; music for this feast is hardly performed in the weeks that follow them. However, liturgically Eastertide covers the fifty days from Easter to Whitsun. That period includes six Sundays, known as Quasimodogeniti, Misericordias Domini, Jubilate, Cantate, Rogate and Exaudi. In between the last two Ascension Day is celebrated. The duets and arias in the programme are all taken from cantatas, written for Sundays within this period as well as Ascension Day.

The programme opens with a duet from a cantata for Easter Sunday 1728, Frohlocke, werte Christenheit. 'Der Herr ist auferstanden' (The Lord is risen) is an example of a piece in which Graupner makes use of counterpoint, for instance in the canon on the words "Höllenbanden" (bands of hell) and "freudig sein" (rejoice). In the B part the word "lebt" ([Jesus] lives) is set to a long-held note. This piece is followed by a recitative and aria for tenor from, Jesus lebt, a cantata for Easter Sunday 1744. In 'Zion lacht in reiner Freude' (Zion laughs in pure joy) Graupner graphically illustrates the word "lacht" with coloratura and staccato motifs.

The aria 'Sollt ich Kreuz und Leiden scheuen' is taken from Sein Rat ist wunderbarlich, a cantata for Ascension Day 1723: "Should I shun the cross and suffering?" This opening line may not suggest a piece for this feast, but the next lines make things clear: "No, no, God will make me joyful if it pleases his counsel. Jesus' joyful end of suffering strengthens my hands of faith". This element explains the joyful character of this aria, despite its gloomy opening. This is an example of an aria in which the composer chooses a particular Affekt, to which all textual elements are subordinate. One of the features of the galant idiom is that voices and instruments are moving in parallels. Here a clear example is the duet 'Christi Leiden', from Verfallnes Salem, a cantata for Easter Monday 1743. The preceding recitative was originally set for tenor and bass; the latter part is sung here an octave higher.

Franz Vitzthum and Georg Poplutz are some of the best interpreters of German sacred music of the 17th and 18th centuries. No wonder that they deliver here completely convincing performances, in which the text is always clearly intelligible. Their voices also blend perfectly. It is clear that they were very committed to this project which is another token of the variety and the quality of Graupner's sacred oeuvre.

I don't know whether it was a deliberate decision to include some instrumental music, or that it was a matter of necessity, as there were not more duets and arias available. Whatever is the case, we get nice specimens of two genres which are also well represented in Graupner's output. He was one of those composers, who extensively contributed to the genre of the overture or orchestral suite, which had its roots in France. The most common scoring was two oboes, strings and basso continuo, but Graupner was one who often opted for a different scoring, for instance with obbligato parts for chalumeau(s). In the Overture in c minor he confines himself to strings and basso continuo. Martin Bail suggests this work may have been written at the occasion of the decease of a person. The second movement is called Plainte craintive, and the fourth is a tombeau. Notable in this movement are the passages with repeated notes. Do we have here the depiction of funeral bells? The third movement is also remarkable: a menuet en echo.

The Concerto in g minor follows the pre-Vivaldian model of four movements. It includes two solo parts for violins, but these are very different from those in concertos by Italian composers, such as Vivaldi. There is no virtuosity here; the violins are true primi inter pares and often play with the tutti. Like in his vocal music, here Graupner shows to be a voice of his own in the chorus of baroque composers. The Main-Barockorchester is a fine ensemble which does everything right here. These two instrumental works are further interesting contributions to the orchestral repertoire.

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

Relevant links:

Georg Poplutz
Franz Vitzthum

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