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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760)


Sinfonia GWV 538 in D major; Sinfonia GWV 578 in G major; Ouverture GWV 429 in Eb major; Ouverture GWV 439 in E major; Concerto GWV 321 in E minor for 2 violins, 2 flutes, viola and bass.
Nova Stravaganza directed by Siegbert Rampe
Recorded Fürstliche Reitbahn, Bad Arolsen, January 2002
DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM - DG GOLD - MDG 341 1121-2 [77.21]



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That the music of Christoph Graupner is not better known is due entirely to a unique and curious set of circumstances. Certainly he is not another mediocre baroque composer who it would be best to keep silent.

After a successful apprenticeship as an opera composer, his fame came to the attention of Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt. Graupner worked for him for 1709, establishing a theatrical tradition and writing motets. However lack of funds curtailed these activities and sadly his music did not outlive him. The story goes as follows and I quote from the excellently compiled noted by Oswald Bill.

After Graupner’s death "his compositions became a bone of contention between his legal heirs and the ruling landgrave. The question of ownership was never settled, and his music was locked away and forgotten. The long legal wrangles did bring one advantage, however; his work remained together and is today preserved … in Darmstadt" His music, newly discovered, is now attracting attention.

Each of the pieces on this CD shows individuality, spontaneity and more than a little spark of genius. The ‘Overture-Suites’ (dated, as the earliest works on the CD, to 1736) may strike some as having a parallel with Telemann. They both start with the longest movement, confusingly also called an Overture, in a French style. This is followed by a series of French movements. Indeed Rameau is sometimes not too far away both in the quality of the instrumental writing and in the odd titles given to certain movements. The E flat suite has a Rigaudon and a movement marked ‘L Intrepidezza’. It ends with ‘L’Inessorabilata’ which is a unique attempt at juxtaposing a strong rhythmic idea on strings with a more feminine gentle one on flutes. These ideas never attempt to meet a compromise but simply are played side by side. This, in microcosm, sums up the extraordinary 20-minute suite itself with its stylistic contrasts. The E major Ouverture has a delicate and absorbing Tombeau, which I deeply love. This suite is also a joy because it incorporates the marvellous playing of Saskia Fuikentscher and Christine Allanic on oboe d’amore.

The two Sinfonias (dated 1752 and 1748) are three movement works of less than ten minutes duration. Not a note is wasted and emotionally they are direct and memorable. The G major one ends curiously in a ternary form double-minuet movement, as Haydn was occasionally to do in the 1760s.

Most exciting of all, in my view, is the four movement concerto featuring early on the two flutes in the delicious and all too short opening Largo. The two faster movements make up twelve and a half minutes of this fifteen and a half minute work. The second movement begins as a fugue and the orchestra would have it as such but the solo instruments refuse to join in and instead play a series of wheeling canons. The last movement is a delightful virtuoso exercise for the flutes.

The performances are quite excellent. This group was founded some fourteen years ago. Period instruments are used and details on each are clearly given. The direction by Siegbert Rampe from the harpsichord (1755 Johann Their) is never obtrusive and the speeds are ideal especially in the slow music.

As a somewhat sceptical reviewer when another little known baroque composer pops up I feel too often that much of the music is over praised. But on the evidence of this disc I shall be looking out again for Christoph Graupner and I would advise you dear reader to do the same.

Gary Higginson


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