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Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760)
Passion Cantatas - Volume IV
Cantata, ‘Das Leiden Jesu vor dem Geist und weltlichen Gericht’ Geist, laß doch mein Herz' (1741) [24:00]
13 selected chorales from the Passion Cantatas (1713-1751) [33:22]
Viola Blache (soprano); Franz Vitzthum (alto); Daniel Schreiber (tenor); Dominik Wörnedr (bass)
Ex Tempore Ensemble
Barockorchester Mannheimer/Florian Heyerick
rec. 2020, Evangelische Andreaskirche, Kerscheim, Germany
CPO 5553482 [57:23]

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

Graupner never again sought to leave Darmstadt, and the remaining thirty-eight years of his life were spent at that court. He was a prolific composer, producing immense amounts of music: over 2000 works, including eight 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 tirelessly, without concern for posterity. He was a man of such humility that he requested that all his music be burned 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 voices and instruments to perfection, and the CPO engineers have produced a very pleasing sound throughout all the works collected here.

During the Lenten period of 1741, Graupner composed a cycle of ten cantatas, based around the theme of repentance in keeping with this special period of the church’s year, hence the title given to the project: Betrachtungen über die Hauptumstände des großen Versöhnungsleidens unseres Erlösers (Reflections on the Circumstances surrounding the Propitiatory Passion of Our Saviour). The texts for the cycle were contributed by Johann Conrad Lichtenberg, the composer’s brother in law.

CPO has completed its recordings of these cantatas with this issue. They have not been published chronologically, and this is No. 5 in the sequence. It occupies less than half the playing time of the disc, the remainder of which is taken up by a seemingly random collection of beautiful chorale settings composed over a period of nearly forty years, between 1713 and 1751. Presumably there were musical considerations – artist availability and rehearsal schedules - which led to the fifth cantata being placed separately on the fourth of the four volumes.

The scoring of the cantata is for two oboes and strings and four solo voices, and in these performances, there is a ripieno ensemble of four more. Full marks to CPO for giving such detailed information about the performers; it is really helpful in this repertoire to understand the scale on which the recorded performance is based. Everything sounds thoroughly authentic.

Graupner also composed operas, and in his vocal writing it shows. His word setting is thoroughly in keeping with the demands of his texts, so, too, his expertise in the handling of the vocal-instrumental distributions in his score. This music may not be particularly dramatic but it is always imaginative and sensitively expressive.

The collection of chorales fulfils the role of makeweight in an obvious respect, but at nearly half an hour it is a substantial array of music. This is very much a collector’s item rather than a continuation of a musical programme, intended to follow the cantata in that sense; nor would many listeners wish to hear thirteen chorales in succession. However, the performances are excellent, and convey the devotional outlook to perfection.

Terry Barfoot

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