Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760)
The Passion Cantatas
Wir wissen, dass Trübsal Geduld bringet (1744) [16:46]
Wo gehet Jesus hin? (1739) [19:44]
Freund, warum bist Du kommen? (1741) [19:00]
Mein Gott! Mein Gott! Warum hast Du mich verlassen? (1731) [15:13]
Ensemble Concerto Grosso/Hans Michael Beuerle
rec. March 2011, Martinskirche Müllheim (Baden)
Texts and translations included
CARUS 83.457 [70:46]
Christoph Graupner was an almost exact contemporary of Bach and Handel and indeed it was because Graupner declined the position, that Bach was appointed Kantor at St. Thomas’ in Leipzig. He declined because the Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hesse had invited him back in 1709 to become Vice-Kapellmeister of his Darmstadt orchestra. Within two years he was Court Kapelmeister. The position entailed the composition of weekly cantatas, composing and directing operas, and writing instrumental music. So when the Leipzig call came, Graupner was reaping the financial rewards of long and esteemed service, and nothing Leipzig offered could remotely match it.
In his life he wrote an astonishing 1400 church cantatas. The four Passion Cantatas in this disc were written in the 1730s and 40s, and all the texts were written by architect and poet Johann Conrad Lichtenberg. Compassion and gratitude are the twin textual and emotive identities explored by the texts. There are no ‘effects’ as regards imagery; the language is plain speaking, direct, shorn of artifice or opportunities for quasi-operatic subterfuge.
The Ensemble Concerto Grosso is made up 2-1-1-1 with organ and harpsichord. The Anton-Webern-Chor Freiburg has twelve members, three in each voice part, and solos are taken by choir members themselves. Wir wissen, dass Trübsal Geduld bringet is representative of Graupner’s aesthetic approach in these Passions. It has an opening chorus, followed by a tenor recitative, and a duet between tenor and bass, and then a soprano recitative and aria, finishing with a brief chorus. The music is concise, compact, undemonstrative but not at all cold. By far the longest movement is the six minute soprano aria, which is radiant, warmly devotional and presents some divisions for the soloist to negotiate.
Stylistically Carus’s notes position Graupner on the borderline of Baroque and Galant, but these Passions certainly suggest the former very strongly. He is good at conveying melancholy, fortunately, which he does in 1739’s Wo gehet Jesus hin? where the chorus’s Ach, aurer Gang is pitiful in its directness. Once again it’s the soprano aria that occupies the most ground between expression and florid declamation – the echoing lines between voice and accompanying ensemble are well characterised. Graupner entrusts the soprano with a few tricky divisions in the next Passion, Freund, warum bist Du kommen? and this draws out the affetusoso side of Graupner’s expressive palette. With its arresting opening Mein Gott, and its alto and tenor duet and concentrated richness, Mein Gott! Mein Gott! Warum hast Du mich verlassen? is the passion that most nearly approximates that of J.S. Bach. Its choral reprise offers a warm slant of Graupner’s imagination and a testament both to his skill and to his awareness of the value and function of cyclical or repeated material, the better to heighten the expressive effect through clarity and simplicity of means.
These are all world premiere recordings and are performed with care and thoughtfulness. Graupner’s music has been receiving more exposure of late, and I hope this latest disc goes some way to explaining why that should be.
Concise, compact, undemonstrative but not at all cold … performed with care and thoughtfulness.