Graupner: Himmlische Stunden, Seelige Zeiten / Feuersinger, Capricornus Consort Basel
GRAUPNER Angst und Jammer, GWV 1145/11. Furcht und Zagen, GWV 1102/11b. Ich bleibe Gott getreu, GWV 1106/19. Ach Gott und Herr, GWV 1144/11 . Overture in c, GWV 413: “Tombeau” • Peter Barczi, cond; Miriam Feuersinger (sop); Capricornus Consort Basel (period instruments) • CHRISTOPHORUS 77381 (76:06 Text and Translation)
Several years ago I mentioned in a review that the cantatas of Christoph Graupner, a well-regarded contemporary of Bach and Telemann, were a vast and largely untouched repertory. Graupner, who lived most of his life in Darmstadt, seemed to write fluidly and continuously in this genre, penning a huge number of them, and yet only a handful have ever been recorded. This disc continues to redress this historical omission with a series of four more intimate works for solo soprano, all but one of which appear here for the first time.
The one thing that comes to mind when listening to these works is the tremendous control that Graupner exercises over his voice and instruments. Scored for a small string body, the latter are particularly well used. For example, there is a playful quality in the closing aria of the first cantata, Angst und Jammer (that would be “Fear and Lamentation” for the German-challenged), that would seem on the surface to be rather more dour and solemn, but this closing movement fairly bounces with life. The voice has some impressive roulades, while the strings dart hither and yon describing the “heavenly hours and blessed times” at the end. It is positively hopeful. The second cantata opens with some interesting close harmonies, almost fearfully (the first aria reads “Fear and Apprehension”) and then more positively as he modulates. He concludes the instrumental introduction on quavering notes, leading directly into a rather twisting vocal passage. Later on, he introduces a chorale tune in the soprano and continuo, all the while the violin moves in equal and non-thematic exercises around, clothing it in a woven musical fabric. This provides a nice contrast to the marching bass line of the final aria, which occasionally grinds to a halt with unexpected caesuras. In the middle is a gentle pastorale, which calms the relentless rhythmic pace. In the third cantata, the aria “Tobt, ihr Feinde” is almost mocking, with a line that positively dances about through various interesting harmonies. In the opening aria of the final cantata, Graupner adds an oboe cantus firmus to the marching strings, a style that one usually associates with Bach. Here it floats above the moving inner parts to give the theme a particular emphasis, and when it finally joins in the motion as the voice enters, one has a feeling of hovering above the restless ground on harmonic wings. Here to, the jaunty final aria is like a Baroque nursery rhyme, with a rocking set of dotted rhythms that almost approximates a triumphal march.
These are well-conceived and quite effective cantatas, once again demonstrating Graupner’s mastery of the genre. As innovative as these are musically, the clear and unambiguous voice of Miriam Feuersinger brings out the lines with a crystalline sound. She handles the demands, both lyrical and coloratura, with ease. Moreover, she and the disciplined Capricornus Consort blend well together. The close harmonies are conceived with studied ease, the continuo is well-paced, and the entire recording is in tune. Oboist Xenia Löffler adds a nice bit of color to the final cantata, and the entire disc is about as pleasing musically as one could imagine. My only quibble is the insertion of the “Tombeau” movement from one of his instrumental suites, which doesn’t really seem to fit. I expect that it was there simply to fill out the disc, and as it is equally well performed there shouldn’t be more than the momentary qualm. For anyone contemplating a complete cantatas collection from this early 18th-century time period, Graupner is a must, and this recording will entice you into exploring his music further.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Catalog Number: CHR77381
Composer: Christoph Graupner
Conductor: Peter Barczi
Orchestra/Ensemble: Capricornus Consort Basel
Performer: Miriam Feuersinger