Christmas in Darmstadt
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Christmas In Darmstadt (Noël À Darmstadt) Vol. 3
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Geneviève Soly, Artistic Director of L'ensemble des Idèes heureuses, is one of the world's few true experts on the music of Christoph Graupner. She is responsible for bringing to light a vast and valuable catalog of Graupner's music. Christmas in Darmstadt features the first recording of several works Graupner composed for the holiday season. Thanks to Soly's great passion for the music of Graupner, these wonderful works can finally be heard.
Insatiable Baroque collectors will surely eat it up [...] The instrumental performances are excellent. -- New York Times
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This volume contains three cantatas for the Christmas season, as well as a flute (or recorder) suite (called an Overture). It starts with a chorale excerpted from yet another cantata based on the well-known chorale of Luther, 'Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern' ('How brightly shines the morning star') in an unusual (and lovely) harmonic treatment by Graupner. The three cantatas are 'Machet die Tore weit' ('Throw open the door') and 'Gedenket an den' ('Think on him') from 1727, and the much-later (1850) 'Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein' ('Rejoice now, dear Christians all').
Graupner wrote over 1400 cantatas in his long professional life and reportedly never performed any of them more than once. Imagine the amount of work entailed in composing a new cantata for each Sunday! The general form of his cantatas was roughly this: A first piece whose text was related to the day's Gospel reading, usually written as a recitative for tenor, followed by a first-person da capo aria sung by one of the church's soloists. Then a chorale which acts as an exegesis of the scripture, the text in third person. Then another first-person aria, another tenor recitative, and a closing choral. This is the so-called 'mixed madrigalian cantata.' Although the third of the cantatas presented here was written 23 years after the first two, its form has not been significantly changed. Graupner's style is a bit less contrapuntal than Bach's and tends more towards what would become the style galant or rococo style. He has an excellent ability to write memorable and apt melodies and his harmonic sense is slightly less chromatic than Bach's, but there are still occasionally surprises, as in the harmonizations of the chorales.
The soloists here are quite adequate if not entirely world class. Frankly, this may work to the advantage of the music because it makes the works sound more like church, not concert, performances. The four solo singers act as the chorus in the chorales. The wholly delightful flute concerto is played with verve and fluency by recorder player Natalie Michaud. There is a good deal of expert violin obbligato playing in the concerto done nicely by an unnamed player. Instrumental support in the cantatas is inobtrusive, alert and entirely solid.
These are important recordings if only because Graupner is just now coming, deservedly, to our attention and benefits from these kinds of informed and masterful performances. This CD (along with its companions) is recommended for those who wish to explore up-to-now obscure byways of the baroque.