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Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760)
Cantata, 'Reiner Geist, laß doch mein Herz' (1714) [17:14]
Suite in E minor (c1735) [19:07]
Cantata, 'Verleih, daß ich aus Herzensgrunde' (1716) [12:18]
Concerto for 2 violins in G minor (c1735) [12:55]
Cantata, 'Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid' (1714) [17:53]
Dorothee Mields (soprano)
Harmonie Universelle/Mónica Waisman
rec. Trinitatiskirche, Köln, 2017
ACCENT ACC24337 [80:24]

In March 1723, at the request of the Landgrave of Darmstadt, who had been his employer for fourteen years, Graupner turned down a prestigious position, that of Kantor at the Thomaskirche at Leipzig, as successor to Johann Kuhnau. Telemann also declined this position, accepting a post at Hamburg instead. Their rejections opened the way for Johann Sebastian Bach to be appointed to the Leipzig post in May 1723. In his letter of non-acceptance, Graupner recommended Bach in a very positive manner to the Leipzig authorities.

Graupner never again sought to leave Darmstadt, and the thirty-eight remaining years of his life were spent at that court. He was a prolific and tireless composer, who produced immense amounts of music. There were over 2000 works, including 8 Operas, 1418 Sacred Cantatas, of which he was an outstanding master, 24 Secular Cantatas, and much instrumental as well as keyboard music. He was known to be one of the composers whom Bach admired and studied.

Graupner worked in a humble and tireless manner, without concern for posterity. He was a man of such humility that he requested all his music be destroyed by fire after his death. Fortunately, however, his manuscripts and autographs remained at the castle in Darmstadt, and are now the property of the town's university.

Relatively little of Graupner's music has been recorded, and this new issue from Accent is therefore to be warmly welcomed, all the more since the performances are so pleasing. In addition, the booklet notes are informative, there are full texts and translations, and the production standards are first class.

Graupner's music is well organised and very much in keeping with the style of the period. He balances voice and ensemble to perfection, though the recording does tend to favour the voice somewhat. That said, Dorothie Mields is a pleasing soloist whose tone seems perfect for this repertoire. The instrumental ensemble is dominated by strings, typically for baroque music, but the additional oboes da caccia make a very pleasing expressive effect, not least in the final item on the programme, the cantata 'Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid' (Ah, God, how many a heartache'). This is the jewel in the crown among these compositions, with a marvellous sense of teamwork among the performers.

In addition to the three cantatas, the disc includes a suite and a concerto. Bernd Heyder's insert notes suggest that these two instrumental pieces date from later in Graupner's career, and reflect the international influences that held sway by the 1730s if not before. Vivaldi and Telemann are mentioned, and it is true that Graupner like Bach was well aware of contemporary musical trends. Moreover he was on friendly terms with Telemann, whose concerts he attended on occasion.

The balance and colour of sound that Graupner sought and achieved is well reflected in these performances. In particular the combination of strings with two oboes da selva (tenor oboes) creates a richly rewarding sonority in the Suite in E minor.

Terry Barfoot


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