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Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760)
Suite in A minor for flute and strings [30:30]
Concerto in B flay major for 2 oboes and strings [11:09]
Suite in G minor for 2 flutes and strings [24:25]
Concerto in D minor for 2 trumpets, timpani and strings [24:25]
l'arpa festante/Rien Voskuilen
rec. Martinskirche, Müllheim, Germany, 2017
ACCENT ACC24350 [73:29]

In March 1723, at the request of the Landgrave of Darmstadt, who had been his employer for fourteen years, Christoph Graupner turned down a prestigious position, that of Kantor at the Thomaskirche at Leipzig, as successor to Johann Kuhnau. Georg Philipp 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 in employment at that court. Throughout his life 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.

In common with other composers of the era, Graupner worked in a humble and tireless manner, without concern for posterity. Moreover 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 in due course became the property of the town’s university.

Relatively little of Graupner’s music has been recorded, and this latest issue in Accent’s continuing series of recordings can be welcomed just as warmly as its predecessors. And for the same reason, which is that the performances are so pleasing. Once again, the booklet notes are informative, 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 his instrumental ensembles with particular effectiveness, and in this new issue the recording is atmospheric and sensitive to the scale of the music.

Of the music recorded here, it is the suites which stand out as the genre in which Graupner excelled. The concertos are well written, but the music tends to resort to clichés of phrasing that is shared between solo and ripieno, over and over. The formalities of baroque trumpets and drums in a concerto is something of a rarity, but even in a seven-minute piece the whole seems rather less than the sum of the parts.

The two suites recorded here are another matter. Both are substantial affairs, towards half an hour in duration, while cast in the familiar format of a longer opening movement with stately introduction and contrapuntal continuation, followed by a sequence of contrasting dance movements. The performances are enhanced by the crisp direction of Rien Voskuilen and the very pleasing string sound, with a supporting continuo that is discreetly but tellingly captured by the recording engineers.

Terry Barfoot


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