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Christoph GRAUPNER (1683 - 1760): "Fagott- und Violinkonzerte" (Bassoon & Violin Concertos)

Christian Leitherer, chalumeaua; Sergio Azzolini, bassoonb; Friedemann Wezel, violinc; Kristin Dom, cellod
Ensemble il capriccio
Dir: Friedemann Wezel

rec: Oct 31 - Nov 3, 2007, Rügheim, Schüttbau
Carus - 83.443 (© 2011) (73'16")

Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in C (GWV 301)b; Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in c minor (GWV 307)b; Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in G (GWV 328)b; Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in B flat (GWV 340)b; Concerto for chalumeau, bassoon, cello, strings and bc in C (GWV 306)abd; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A (GWV 337)c

Friedemann Wezel, Dietlind Mayer, Gabriele Köller, violin; David Dieterle, viola; Ilze Grudele, Kristin Dom, cello; Kiyomi Sobue, double bass; Sergio Azzolini, bassoon; Diego Cantalupi, lute, guitar; Francesco Pedrini, harpsichord, organ

We are in the middle of a true Graupner renaissance. In recent years a number of recordings of his oeuvre have been released. Last December a concert hall in Antwerp in Belgium organised a Graupner festival, with a series of concerts in which several of his compositions were performed. The immediate cause was the commemoration of his death in 1760. That is probably also the reason this disc of solo concertos was recorded in 2007 yet released only very recently.

So far it has been mainly Graupner's overtures which has been given attention. That is understandable as he was one of the most prolific composers of overtures, second only to his friend Georg Philipp Telemann. This reflects his personal liking of the French style, and the preference for French music of his employer, Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt. His solo concertos have been largely neglected. The number of solo concertos is limited in comparison to his overtures. He composed almost 100 in the latter genre, whereas only 18 solo concertos from his pen are known. In addition there are 20 double concertos, 6 triple concertos and one concerto for four solo instruments. The solo concerto was an Italian genre, and it seems that Graupner started to become interested in this form around 1724 when he began to collect and perform solo concertos by other composers. Around 1730 he composed his first concertos.

The scoring reflects the availability of skilled players in Darmstadt. Graupner's oeuvre contains four concertos for bassoon - all of them recorded on this disc - which were inspired by the presence of the bassoon virtuoso Johann Christian Klotsch, who became a member of the court orchestra in 1735. The concertos give a very good impression of his skills, as the solo parts are virtuosic and explore the features of the instrument to the full. Sergio Azzolini is the modern equivalent of Klotsch, who makes his instrument speak and sing, cry and cheer, and who masters the full tessitura and dynamic range of his instrument with impressive ease. The Concerto for chalumeau, bassoon and cello in C is a specimen of the genre of the triple concerto which is also represented in the oeuvre of the likes of Telemann and Bach. The combination of chalumeau and bassoon creates a wonderful sound, in which the darkness of the bassoon contrasts nicely with the mellow sound of the chalumeau. It is again inspired by the presence of a virtuosic performer, the clarinettist and chalumeau player Karl Jakob Gozian. The cello has only a solo role in the slow movement, and the juxtaposition of the two low instruments is quite nice.

Graupner has composed only one solo concerto for violin. It is not known whether this was written for a specific player. It seems Graupner - or his employer - had a special preference for wind instruments, and those mostly take the solo parts in the concertos. But considering the technical level of the solo part in the violin concerto the performer must have been very good. Friedemann Wezel delivers an excellent performance.

This concerto is just one example of Graupner's highly original and absolutely unique compositional style. As I have observed before in reviews of recordings with instrumental works, his music is a kind of patchwork, and built from different ideas which sometimes seem to be totally unconnected. You just never know what is going to happen. There is quite a strong contrast between the solo parts and the tutti in these concertos. The violin concerto has a surprising start, and so has the Concerto for bassoon in C, which opens this disc. It starts with a really big bang. But there is also lyricism, as for instance in the andante from the violin concerto in which the strings play pizzicato and the violin elegantly rises above the surface.

The Ensemble il capriccio plays with one instrument per part. Whether this is in line with the size of the court chapel in Darmstadt I can't tell. But it seems a bit questionable, and I also find the acoustics a shade too dry. A little more space would have been preferable. The ensemble plays brilliantly, with strong accents on heavy beats, and with a great rhythmic drive. You may find it hard to sit still while listening.

In short, this is a wonderful disc which brings the unique qualities of Graupner's music to the fore. It once again proves that Graupner is one of the great masters of the German baroque.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

Relevant links:

Ensemble il capriccio

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