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Graun: Easter Oratorio / Willens, Kobow, Wolf, Saskova, Koufochristou

Graun / Koelner Akademie / Willens
Release Date: 04/30/2013 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777794  
Composer:  Carl Heinrich Graun
Performer:  Dagmar SaskovaAndreas WolfJan KobowNina Koufochristou
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GRAUN Osteroratorium Michael Alexander Willens, cond; Nina Koufochristou (sop); Dagmar Saskova (alt); Jan Kobow (ten); Andreas Wolf (bs); Kölner Akademie CPO 7777942 (64:08 Text and Translation)

As with much of the oeuvre of Carl Heinrich Graun (1704–59), the date of composition of his Easter Oratorio is unknown. Based on stylistic grounds, it probably belongs among his earlier Read more works composed in Dresden or Braunschweig (Brunswick), before he moved to Prussia in 1735 and ultimately became Kapellmeister to Frederick II. It survives in a single manuscript copy by an unknown hand from the later 18th century, and the librettist is not named. It is divided into four sections, for performance respectively on Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, and the First Sunday after Easter in the liturgical calendar. Except for two brief verses taken from the Bible, the text consists of poetic meditations on Christ, his resurrection, and the import of those for the true believer.

Today, Graun remains remembered almost solely for his Passiontide oratorio Der Tod Jesu , which was performed every Good Friday by the Berlin Singakademie for a span of almost 130 years (see my review of the Pál Németh recording on Hungaroton in 34:1). The redoubtable CPO label is primarily responsible for what little more knowledge most of us have of the composer’s music, having previously issued recordings of the Christmas Oratorio , the Grosse Passion , the opera Montezuma , and single discs of sacred motets and instrumental concerti. The Harmonia Mundi label also issued a recording of the opera Cleopatra e Cesare conducted by René Jacobs. Reactions to these additional works by the Fanfare critics who have reviewed them—Bertil van Boer, Michael Carter, Henry Fogel, Ronald E. Grames, David Johnson, and David L. Kirk—have expressed sharply divided views on their merits. Some have found Graun to be a dull Kapellmeister and routine note-spinner, whereas others have expressed pleasure at the restoration of a skilled if second-rank composer to living memory.

In this instance, at least, my vote joins those in the second camp. This is a lovely and delightful work, which astonishes by its remarkable stylistic similarities to Handel in its harmonic and melodic contours. Indeed, had someone played selected parts of it for me and told me it was a recently rediscovered work by Handel from a German source, I would have believed it. The orchestration is somewhat more brilliant than Handel employs in e.g., Messiah ; the 24 members of the instrumental ensemble include pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, and horns, plus three trumpets, timpani, organ, and strings. The superb quartet of vocal soloists—a veritable model for recordings of such repertoire, even if tenor Jan Kobow is not quite as suave of voice as his colleagues—also serves as the chorus when needed. The Kölner Akademie is likewise beyond praise, and conductor Michael Alexander Willens exploits every bar of the score to fullest expressive effect. CPO provides its usual copious booklet notes and stellar recorded sound in addition to a complete German-English text. (Very oddly, in the English texts there are a number of words printed with random single space gaps dividing them into two parts.) For anyone looking to go beyond Bach and Handel for worthy exemplars of late-Baroque sacred music, this recording should be a prime choice; highly recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Easter Oratorio by Carl Heinrich Graun
Performer:  Dagmar Saskova (Mezzo Soprano), Andreas Wolf (Bass), Jan Kobow (Tenor),
Nina Koufochristou (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy

Sound Samples

Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part I: Siehe, es hat uberwunden der Lowe (Chorus)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part I: Accompagnato: O susser Ostertrost (Alto)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part I: Jesum suchen und nicht finden (Alto)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part I: Recitative: Doch, wie der Heiland des Verlorne suchte (Tenor)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part I: Zerstreute Schafe, sammelt euch (Tenor)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part I: Recitative: Lebt Jesus, was ist man betrubt (Bass)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part I: Seele, freue dich mit Zittern (Bass)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part I: Erstanden ist der heil'ge Christ (Chorus)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Selig sind, die nicht sehen und doch glauben (Chorus)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Recitative: Ich sehe dich zwar nicht, mein Jesu, so (Alto)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Mein herz singt dir jetzt Freudenlieder (Alto)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Recitative: Zwar wollen alle meine Seelenfeinde (Bass)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Trotzet, ihre Feinde, vereinigt zusammen (Bass)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Tod, Sund, Teufel, Leben und Gnad (Chorus)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Jesus ist erstanden (Chorus)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Sagt's den Jungern, saget's allen (Tenor)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Accompagnato: O grossr Holl- und Todesuberwinder (Bass)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Die Menschen haben beigetragen (Bass)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Accompagnato: Wir wollen aber jetzt zum leeren Grabe gehen (Soprano)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: O seliger Wandel, wo Jesus mitwandelt (Soprano)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part II: Trost' auch andere fromme Seelen (Chorus)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part III: Der Herr ist wahrhaftig auferstanden (Chorus)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part III: Accompagnato: Zuletzt, o Jesu lass deiner Auferstehung Wahrheit (Tenor)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part III: Ach, mein Jesu! ach bleib bei uns (Soprano, Tenor)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part III: Recitative: Indessen wollen wir dein Siegesfest (Tenor)
Osteroratorium (Easter Oratorio): Part III: Schlusschoral: Nun singet all' zu dieser Frist (Choral)

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Boring October 2, 2013 By John M Rathbun (Mills River, NC) See All My Reviews "As far as I can tell, the performance and audio quality are as good as could be desired, but I heard nothing particularly interesting about the music." Report Abuse
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