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Concert reviews

"Unknown, unloved: Graupner & Telemann"

Dorothee Oberlinger, recorder
Holland Baroque Society
concert: Feb 9, 2010, Utrecht, Geertekerk

Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760): Ouverture a 2 violini, viola e cembalo; Overture for recorder, strings and bc in F; Suite for harpsichord in A: chaconne; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in C (TWV 51,C1); Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in g minor (TWV deest) (attr); Concerto for strings and bc in A (TWV 43,A4); Suite for 2 violins in D 'Gulliver-Suite' (TWV 40,108)

Lidewij van der Voort, David Wish, violin; Esther van der Eijk, viola; Tomasz Pokrzywinski, cello; Tineke Steenbrink, harpsichord

It seems we are in the middle of a real Graupner renaissance. For many years hardly any attention was paid to his music. It was in the 1980s that Helmut Müller-Brühl recorded some works by Graupner with his Capella Clementina. And over the years some other recordings have been released. But he never was a name which regularly appeared in the programmes of chamber music ensembles or baroque orchestras. But in recent years his music is put on the map, in particular by the German musicologist and keyboard player Siegbert Rampe, who recorded some instrumental music with his ensemble Nova Stravaganza. His colleague Hermann Max has performed some sacred music. And the activities of the Canadian harpsichordist Geneviève Soly have to be mentioned with honour. She is recording all of Graupner's keyboard works and also instrumental and vocal works with her ensemble Les Idées Heureuses.

On Tuesday, February 9, I went to a concert of the Holland Baroque Society, a young ensemble which works with guest conductors. They don't really conduct, since they are always instrumentalists who actively participate in the performances. Among them were Matthew Halls, Sergio Azzolini, Alexis Kossenko and Skip Sempé. This time it was the virtuosic German recorder player Dorothee Oberlinger. Recently a recording was released with music by Telemann, Graupner and Schultze in which she plays the solo parts, with her Ensemble 1700, conducted by Reinhard Goebel. A review will be published on this site in due course.

Two of the pieces from that disc were also performed during the concert, Graupner's Overture in F and Telemann's Concerto in g minor.
One of the features of Graupner's music is its mosaic character. There seems little regularity in his music, and it gives the impression of being rather a sequence of short motifs which follow each other in random order. The Overture in F is written for recorder, strings and bc, but one shouldn't expect anything like Telemann's famous Overture in a minor for the same scoring. Whereas in the latter the recorder has a real solo role, in Graupner's Overture the recorder is much more integrated in the ensemble. In several movements, and in particular the second, 'La Speranza', it keeps quiet for longer periods of time, only to enter now and then with motifs which have no connection with the material of the tutti. The other Graupner piece was an Overture a 2 violini, viola e cembalo, which is another good specimen of Graupner's very personal style. Remarkable is a movement, called 'La Fedeltà', in which the strings play con sordino. The Overture ends with a highly original 'Pastorelle', with a drone bass and a surprising ending.

Graupner's music was juxtaposed to compositions by his friend and collegue, Georg Philipp Telemann. No renaissance is needed here, as right now most music lovers are well aware of the originality of his music. But there are still pieces which are hardly known and which surprise by their particular character. Telemann is often seen as a composer of 'modern' music in which the melody is more important than counterpoint. That Telemann wasn't afraid of writing polyphonic music was shown by the Concerto for strings and bc in A. It contains some harmonic progressions one wouldn't immediately expect in Telemann's music, in particular in the third movement.

Telemann often includes special effects in his music, especially his orchestral overtures. But one of his most remarkable compositions is the Gulliver Suite for two violins in which he illustrates some episodes from Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels. Every movement was preceded by a short explanation by Lidewij van der Voort. That makes sense as not everybody knows what the book is about.

Two recorder concertos by Telemann were played. One of them is a Concerto in g minor which was only recently discovered and which is also figuring on the disc I mentioned before. The manuscript doesn't mention Telemann as the composer but there are reasons to believe it was indeed composed by him. It is quite different from the solo concertos by Telemann we know, and that includes the Concerto in C which ended the programme. In his concertos Telemann follows mostly the traditional four-movement pattern, but the Concerto in g minor is in three movements. There is a stronger division between solo and tutti than in other concertos. Listening to this piece once again I am still not entirely convinced that it is by Telemann. But it is an important discovery anyway, and a worthwhile extension of the limited repertoire of solo concertos for the recorder.

The performances were excellent throughout. Holland Baroque Society always plays with passion and zest, and that wasn't any different here. Dorothee Oberlinger has the same approach, as her recordings show, and it isn't surprising that they were well matched. There was a very good rapport between the soloist and the ensemble, and this was audible and visible.
In particular in German music it is vital to articulate well and pay attention to the speechlike character of this repertoire. The players of Holland Baroque Society thoroughly understand that.
Dorothee Oberlinger played brilliantly, with a beautiful sound, very lively and exploring the features of the repertoire. As one often focuses on the string players of the ensemble the basso continuo section is too often overlooked. Therefore I want to mention them as they drive the ensemble on. Tomasz Pokrzywinski is a very good cellist, who plays with visible enthusiasm and energy, whereas Tineke Steenbrink provides the ensemble of a firm harmonic foundation. She showed her credentials as a soloist with a fine performance of Graupner's long and complex Chaconne from the Suite in A.

It was a most enjoyable evening and hopefully another step in the process of the emancipation and growing appreciation of Graupner's music.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

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