Notes and Editorial Reviews
Concerto in C for 2 Chalumeau and Strings,
Sonata in g for Violin and Obligato
Overture for 3 Chalumeau and Strings in F Major,
Sonata in g for Violin and Harpsichord,
Overture in F for 2 Horns, Timpani, 2 Chalumeau, and Strings
(vn, cond); Ars Antiqua Austria (period instruments)
CHALLENGE CC72539 ( 74:41)
If the wishes of Christoph Graupner (1683–1760) had been followed, this recording would have never been released since he mandated that after his death his complete catalog of some 1,700 works composed for his two princes (Ernst Ludwig and Ludwig VIII) should be destroyed. Graupner was not the typical promoter of his own work, neither was he an egotist; in fact, he was just the opposite: some of his contemporaries spoke of his excessive modesty. This explains why there was never a portrait. Numerous other aspects of this composer, of his work, and its interpretation have remained shrouded in mystery to this day. In fact Graupner’s place in the history of Western music is still being sorted out.
Graupner was an extremely conscientious musician whose life’s work was the essential fulfillment of his tasks as a composer to the court where he was at home. A biographical note from 1781 noted “His diligence has made him stand out perhaps from all other composers of his time and measured against them the quantity of his music would certainly have been far more impressive if he had been less conscientious and had worked more fleetly. He sat at his desk day and night and his enormous industry probably contributed to the loss of his sight.”
Works by Graupner’s contemporaries circulated all over Europe via copies and these found homes in various libraries. In fact, the Darmstadt collection held music by Telemann, Fasch, and other composers but Graupner’s music rarely found its way to the outside world. There is the occasional single copy of a Graupner manuscript, but one might suspect that the princes acquired exclusive rights to Graupner’s music by way of his continued presence in Darmstadt. Whatever the reason, the existence of a Graupner manuscript outside the confines of the court where he was employed was a true rarity.
Graupner was in charge of the
and other musical interests of the prince and the manuscripts he left behind are meticulously written and therefore easily readable, but there is not as much as a scintilla of evidence as to when they were composed. We can posit an approximate date based on the instrumentation, especially for the works that include the chalumeau, the forerunner of the clarinet. A bassoonist who moved to Darmstadt in 1735 also played the chalumeau and recently discovered documents indicate that in 1738 Darmstadt acquired the services of a musician who played chalumeau after he had been discharged by the establishment in Odenwald. The
requiring three chalumeau could not have been written before 1738 and it may have been composed in the early 1740s. As for the violin sonatas, Graupner’s authorship is uncertain as they do not contain the name of their composer.
I have several other discs of Graupner’s music in my library (including a few concert recordings acquired from friends as well as the harpsichord suites on Analekta) and what I have found is that the music is of a consistently high quality. The same is true for the material on this offer from Gunar Letzbor and Ars Antiqua Austria. Their playing is focused, energetic, and committed and Ars Antiqua Austria makes an exceptional case for the music of this long-forgotten master. My sole complaint is a minor one and it concerns the size of the ensemble: They perform with one stringed instrument per part. I would like a slightly larger string section, say 3-2-2-1-1. Otherwise, this is a noteworthy release and serves the cause of the composer quite well.
FANFARE: Michael Carter
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