Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Recordings of programs like this, competent and fundamentally satisfying as they are, only serve to confirm the difference between composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Haydn and those like Carl Heinrich Graun, whose life and career fell roughly in the middle of those three giants, but whose inventive capacity was more functional and skillful than transcendent or ingenious. The Te Deum is appropriately grand (written to honor the Prussian defeat of the Austrians in 1757) and contains a lively orchestral introduction, followed by a suitably emphatic, melodically catchy choral affirmation of the work's theme of praise. Throughout the piece the
orchestral accompaniment is distinguished by varied strokes of color (especially effective use of horns and winds) and nifty string figures that not only fill out the texture but enhance and even illuminate the choral commentary. There are many solos, lots of fine fugal sections, and strongly written choruses; there's also a beautiful duet for alto and tenor ("Te ergo quaesumus").
But the basic problem here for listeners is that Graun's music is not consummately interesting or structurally inventive enough to warrant the 45 minutes he devotes to the explication of this familiar if somewhat lengthy text. The weakest material comes in the longer solos--surprising due to the fact that Graun was best known in his time as an opera composer. The three motets are very well-crafted, the second one especially--Lasset uns freuen und fröhlich sein--with its Bach-like contrasts both between voice-parts and from section to section, ending with a lovely fugue. The choral singing is very solid, the soloists generally engaging and technically sure, and the orchestra under Fritz Näf provides attentive support and polished sound. While this is not the greatest music of its time, it nevertheless reflects the very high standard of court sacred music in Berlin in the mid-18th century and stands as a reference for the work of a composer whom Bach himself was known to have admired. CPO completes the package with vibrant, clear sound, well-balanced among and between chorus, soloists, and orchestra.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Te Deum by Carl Heinrich Graun
Machet die Tore weit by Carl Heinrich Graun
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