Graupner: Two Overtures, G14 and D5 (CD review)

Also, Cantata for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. Barbara Schlick, soprano; Hein Meens, tenor; Hermann Max, Das Kleine Konzert. CPO 999 592-2.

This is the kind of disc that would probably go by unnoticed by most classical record shoppers unless they had heard about it somewhere. Now you've heard about it. Johann Christoph Graupner (1683-1760) was a German Baroque composer with over 1,500 published works to his credit, yet hardly anyone recognizes his name anymore. He worked as Kapellmeister at the Hesse court in Darmstadt for almost fifty years, composing both secular and religious music, and he might have gotten the music director's post in Leipzig that went to J.S Bach instead had Graupner's patron allowed him leave.

Graupner was, in fact, one of the leading composers of his day, but his name and works fell into obscurity. According to what I've read, this obscurity is unfair: his heirs fought legal battles over his manuscripts, and he had very few pupils to carry on his work. So it's good that a label like CPO and artists like soprano Barbara Schlick,  tenor Hein Meens, conductor Hermann Max, and Das Kleine Konzert to honor him on occasion and keep his name alive.

Hermann Max
Appropriately, the disc offers two overtures (suites) with a cantata between them as representative of his output. There is nothing remarkable about any of the pieces that might describe him as a genius, but each work is highly likable and approachable. More important, Maestro Max and the small Das Kleine Konzert ensemble play each work with spirit and dignity, never overreaching their limits in headlong displays of period-instrument frenzy.

Executive producer Barbara Schwendowius and engineer Dietrich Wohlfromm recorded the overtures in 1996 and Ms. Schwendowius and engineer Hans Vieren recorded the cantata in 1983. They captured the results in wonderfully revealing and realistic sound, even though the overtures and the cantata were recorded some thirteen years apart. For a few listeners there may be too much sense of "space," too much ambient reflection in the setting, but it is a flattering acoustic that puts the group firmly in the stage picture and the listener firmly in the audience.

Graupner was an important composer, though now largely unknown; the performances are animated yet wholly earnest; the sound is natural and lifelike. It is a lovely album.


To listen to several brief excerpts from this album, click below:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa