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Christoph GRAUPNER (1683 - 1760): "Concerti e Musica di Tavola"

Ofer Frenkel, oboe d'amorea; Gili Rinot, chalumeaub; Benny Aghassi, bassoonc; Walter Reiter, violind; Thomas Fritzsch, celloe
Accademia Daniel
Dir: Shalev Ad-El

rec: Nov 1 - 12, 2010, Chemnitz-Hilbertsdorf, Gemeindesaal der Ev.-Luth. Trinitatiskirchgemeinde
CPO - 777 645-2 (© 2015) (67'17")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in C (GWV 301)c; Concerto for chalumeau, bassoon, cello, strings and bc in C (GWV 306)bce; Concerto for oboe d'amore, strings and bc in C (GWV 302)a; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A (GWV 337)d; Entrata per la Musica di Tavola for strings and bc in g minor (GWV 468)

Benny Aghassi, recorder; Katya Polin, recorder, violin; Walter Reiter, Dafna Ravid, violin; Amos Boasson, viola; Thomas Fritzsch, cello, viola da gamba; Claus-Peter Nebelung, double bass; Shalev Ad-El, harpsichord

Another disc with music by Christoph Graupner. It attests to the increasing interest in the oeuvre of a composer who was hardly noticed until fairly recently. There is still very much to discover as his output comprises around 1,800 works, among them 1,400 sacred cantatas. In comparison his instrumental output isn't that large, but it still tallies 80 orchestral overtures, 44 concertos, 112 sinfonias, 19 chamber music works and 50 keyboard pieces.

Although some of his instrumental works may have been written when he was still studying law in Leipzig and at the same time was active as a member of the Collegium Musicum under Telemann's direction, the largest part was written from 1729 onwards. That seems a little surprising considering that the composing of instrumental music was part of his duties when he entered the service of Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt. In the liner-notes Uta Wald gives an interesting explanation. In 1711 the flautist Johann Michael Böhm had entered the chapel. He was in charge of part of its chamber music activities. In the ensuing years his employer faced increasing financial difficulties which resulted in the court opera being closed in 1722. "The precarious finances at the Darmstadt court caused his [Böhm's] wages to be withheld, plunging him into deep penury that caused him to flee in 1729 without being dismissed. Along with him he took his voluminous music library (including Telemann manuscripts) to his new place of employment in Ludwigsburg. With this, the Darmstadt orchestra no longer had the music at its disposal. It is safe to assume that Graupner had to offset the court's decimated library by writing new instrumental works himself".

He did not feel the effects of the financial troubles. In 1722 he was chosen to succeed Johann Kuhnau as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. However, his employer refused to let him leave, and almost doubled his salary. Graupner remained in Darmstadt until his death. His employer was a great lover of music and also composed some music himself. He was especially fond of orchestral overtures and this explains why Graupner composed so many of them. The Entrata per la Music di Tavola in g minor, one of a specific category of music to be performed during the meals of the Margrave, is stylistically related to the overture. The opening movement - slow, fast, slow - is not very different from the opening movements of orchestral suites. It also includes some character pieces which we find especially in many overtures by Graupner's colleague and friend Telemann. They probably also reflect Graupner's experiences in opera. It is for strings and bc, but in this performance they are joined in some movements by two recorders, playing colla parte with the violins. In the second movement (menuet I/II) one of them even plays a solo role.

Forty-four concertos by Graupner have come down to us in autographs. These include 19 solo concertos, 19 double concertos and six for three or four solo instruments. One of the latter is the Concerto in C (GWV 306) which has solo parts for chalumeau, bassoon and cello. Apparently it was Graupner's intention to create a concerto for three low instruments as here the bass chalumeau is required. It is likely that this concerto dates from the mid-1730s, shortly after the arrival of the bassoonist Johann Christian Klotz, who probably also introduced the chalumeau. In 1734 Graupner composed his first cantatas with a chalumeau part. In 1737 he started to employ the alto chalumeau. The arrival of Klotsch also explains Graupner's composition of four solo concertos for the bassoon, among them the Concerto in C (GWV 301). These are very virtuosic, and explore the lowest notes on the instrument. These pieces certainly reflect the skills of Klotsch. In the triple concerto chalumeau and bassoon are treated as solo instruments in the two fast movements, with the cello being confined to an accompanying role, whereas in the slow movement the bassoon and the cello swap their roles.

The Concerto in C (GWV 302) is one of the two concertos for oboe d'amore from Graupner's pen and the Concerto in A (GWV 337) his only concerto for solo violin. It seems that Graupner turned to the form of the solo concerto rather late, around 1730. It has been pointed out that from 1719 to 1724 the Italian-born violinist Alessandro Toeschi was a member of the court chapel. He composed concertos in the style of Vivaldi. It has been suggested that Graupner - probably in reaction to Toeschi - deliberately avoided Vivaldi's model. If one listens to these concertos the lack of regularity - a feature of Graupner's music anyway - is striking. The very short slow movement from the oboe d'amore concerto - called tempo giusto - is a good example. At first the strings seem to be dominant: the oboe repeats the closing motif of the strings. Soon the roles are exchanged and it is the oboe which has the lead. This concerto dates from 1737 and is of a mostly elegant character, reflecting the emerging galant style. The violin concerto is full of surprises, right from the start. It begins with a slow bar and then the tempo suddenly speeds up; that is repeated later. In the andante the tutti strings play pizzicato throughout except the last couple of bars. In particular in the closing allegro the solo part is virtuosic.

I once read in the booklet of another disc with music by Graupner that the performers admitted that it took them some time before they felt at home in his idiom. I can understand that; many listeners will have the same experience. Graupner is not a composer of catchy melodies. The Accademia Daniel has recorded Graupner before and they are clearly well acquainted with his idiom and his many idiosyncracies. That results in compelling interpretations of these concertos. The concertos for violin and for bassoon have been recorded before; the other items seem to be first recordings. That makes this disc a substantial and most welcome addition to the discography of a composer who was very much his own man.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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