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Johann Gottlieb Graun, Carl Heinrich Graun: Concerti

Graun,J.g. / Graun,C.h. / Caf
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777321-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Gottlieb Graun
Performer:  Swantje HoffmannPetra MüllejansMichael SchneiderChristian Beuse
Conductor:  Petra Müllejans
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Academica Frankfurt
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

J. G. GRAUN Symphony in B?. Concerto in c for Violin and Viola. Bassoon Concerto in F. Recorder Concerto in C. Flute Concerto in e Petra Müllejans (vn, va, cond); Michael Schneider (rcr); Christian Beuse (bn); Swantje Hoffmann (vn); Karl Kaiser (fl); Cappella Academica Frankfurt (period instruments) CPO 777 321 (62:55)

As more and more of the instrumental music of the Graun brothers appears, the more pressing the issue becomes to distinguish between the two, regardless of the fact that attributions are Read more quite uncertain for much of their music. There are, of course, two exceptions on this disc, the symphony and the double concerto for violin, viola, and strings, which are indisputably by violinist Johann Gottlieb Graun, but the remaining three pieces fall into that uncertain category. Indeed, the lovely concerto for bassoon seems based upon a Darmstadt manuscript that only has “del Signore Grau” with the name illegible beyond the first three letters. Given that the work is decidedly old-fashioned and that it was found in Darmstadt, court of Darmstadt-Hessen, the excellent booklet notes by soloist Michael Schneider remark that it probably represents a work by the prolific Kapellmeister there, Christoph Graupner, rather than either of the two Grauns. (One is tempted to say that the scholarly attribution to them is Graun-less, but perhaps this would be too antagonizing for the casual reader. But I digress.)

All of the works on this disc come from that inventive period during the 1730s and 1740s, sometimes known as early Empfindsamkeit , where composers such as the Grauns were exploring a new musical language that featured good thematic development, exploring the ranges and technical abilities of the instruments, and injecting a good dose of emotion into the music. As both of these men were involved heavily with Frederick the Great’s musical establishment, a circle of experts that ranged from the more conservative writing of Johann Joachim Quantz to the abrupt modulations and dynamic changes of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, both contributed to the development of the style, particularly Johann Gottlieb, who devoted much of his efforts to instrumental music.

The opening three-movement symphony represents a typical example, with a first movement that reflects an almost frenetic energy in the rapid modulations, the skirling strings, and the running (not walking) bass. The G-Minor slow movement is a graceful and cautious minuet, while the finale returns with a rapid pace. It is a work to get the blood moving. The same can be said for the C-Minor double concerto. This is a work that is removed from the more sedate sinfonia concertante of several decades later, a true concerto for both instruments, which often form a sort of dialogue with each other. There are no real lyrical themes, and interestingly enough, Graun seems to favor the viola, which often takes the lead in terms of thematic entrances and sometimes even the upper voice, lending the work a darker character. This is serious music, which even imbues the lyrical second movement with its muted strings and in a minor key as well. The recorder concerto as well as the flute concerto are both much more predictable and perhaps even earlier works. The influence of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Baroque concertos is evident in the heavy use of sequencing of the motivic themes and the ritornello structure. The first movement of the recorder concerto is a paraphrase of a hornpipe, something that Telemann was happy to use for its rhythmic emphases. This work also is a sort of double concerto, for there is an extensive violin solo part as well, but it is often so well integrated that it seems more of a concerto grosso. The real soloistic display is reserved for the recorder, as expertly performed by Michael Schneider. The flute work, with its somewhat mechanical outer movements and lilting Siciliano middle, positively reeks of Quantz, though the omission of the viola in the accompaniment is probably not as indicative of “one on a part” as the notes might suggest. Quantz has a thing or two to say about violas in his flute treatise, so their absence may either have been deliberate or a way to lighten the texture for this technically demanding work. I would guess that these are the work of Johann Gottlieb Graun, as he can be quite conservative in his compositions. The real eye-opener is the very Baroque bassoon concerto, which seems far more old-fashioned in terms of motivic development and structure than any of the other works on the disc. In particular, the wonderful second movement, with the solo part intertwining with the bassoon continuo, both wonderfully performed by soloist Christian Beuse and Elisabeth Kaufhold, presents a work that is texturally sublime.

The Capella Academica is made up of faculty from the performance-practice institute at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt. Their membership performs with most of the major period-instrument ensembles throughout Germany, including Schneider’s La Stagione, so one could anticipate an excellent performance. The main soloists have that nice combination of musicality and ease of performing the often gnarly virtuoso passages that makes for a wonderful listening experience. In particular I like the dark tone and phrasing of Petra Müllejans’ viola playing in the double concerto, but violinist Swantje Hoffmann, bassoonist Beuse, flutist Karl Kaiser, and Schneider are all equally sensitive and capable. The tempos are nicely paced, and the ensemble is perfectly suited to this type of music, allowing the solo instruments not only to integrate within the tutti sections, but also to emerge as needed for their bits. This is a disc I can listen to over and over again without being tired. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin and Viola da gamba in C minor by Johann Gottlieb Graun
Performer:  Swantje Hoffmann (Violin), Petra Müllejans (Viola)
Conductor:  Petra Müllejans
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Academica Frankfurt
Period: Baroque 
Written: 18th Century; Germany 
Venue:  Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Ku 
Length: 24 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Concerto for Recorder, Violin and Strings in C major by Johann Gottlieb Graun
Performer:  Michael Schneider (Recorder), Petra Müllejans (Viola)
Conductor:  Petra Müllejans
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cappella Academica Frankfurt
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 
Venue:  Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Ku 
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Concerto for bassoon, strings & continuo in F major by Johann Gottlieb Graun
Performer:  Christian Beuse (Bassoon)
Period: Classical 
Venue:  Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Ku 
Length: 9 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Concerto for transverse flute, 2 violins & basso continuo in E minor by Johann Gottlieb Graun
Period: Classical 
Venue:  Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Ku 
Length: 10 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Symphony in B flat major for strings & continuo by Johann Gottlieb Graun
Period: Classical 
Venue:  Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Ku 
Length: 7 Minutes 10 Secs. 

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