Friedrich der Grosse – Graun, Nichelmann, C.P.E Bach, Friedrich II: Music for the Berlin court (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.32 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz
The year 2012 marks the tercentenary of the birth of Frederick the Great, whose political and military glory has often relegated his musical talent to the status of a mere hobby. But Frederick II was not only the key personality of Berlin musical life for the whole of the 18th century – as is shown by the works of the composers presented on this CD, all of whom worked at his court at some point in their careers – but also an excellent flautist who left posterity a number of fine flute sonatas from his own pen.
The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012. Formed in East Berlin in 1982, Akamus can pride itself on an outstanding reputation and an exceptional career: it has been a welcome guest in all thegreat musical institutions of Europe, Asia and North and South America. In 2011, the ensemble took in its stride operatic productions in nine European countries, an extended tour of the USA and its first tour to China.
The group gives around one hundred concerts a year, with varied forces, under the direction of its different Konzertmeisters: Midori Seiler, Stephan Mai, Bernhard Forck, Georg Kallweit; or guest conductors such as Marcus Creed, Daniel Reuss and Hans-Christoph Rademann. The Akademie’s collaboration with René Jacobs, which started almost 25 years ago, has turned into a genuine artistic partnership. The productions resulting from their work together have been enthusiastically acclaimed both on stage and on record: their recording of ‘Die Zauberflöte’ was distinguished with an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and BBC Music Choice. More recently ‘Agrippina’ has been shortlisted for a BBC Music Award in April 2012.
Since 1994, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin has recorded exclusively for harmonia mundi.
Composer: Johann Gottlieb Graun, Christoph Nichelmann, Frederick the Great, Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble: Academy for Ancient Music Berlin
Released to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the birth of Frederick the Great, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin’s album of music from the Potsdam court is a strong-willed tribute to the strong-willed monarch’s musical achievements, both as a composer himself—he studied with the composer and pedagog Quantz—and as impresario, surrounding himself with some of his age’s finest performers and composers.
Johann Gottlieb Graun (1703–71) is represented here by two works. Sometimes overshadowed by the achievements of his brother Carl Heinrich (1704–59), one of the most important German mid-century composers of Italian opera, Johann Gottlieb worked at Frederick’s court as a violinist and composer. His Overture and Allegro in D Minor are fine examples of a composer who deserves more recognition than he is currently receiving. The overture in the French style receives a stylish and rivetingly precise treatment at the hands of Stephan Mai (directing from the violin) and the orchestra. This is a group that is not afraid to explore contrast in dynamic, articulation, and color, including experimenting with scoring; the repeat of the allegro in the overture opens with winds and no strings, highlighting the rich and reedy sound of oboists Xenia Löffler and Michael Bosch and bassoonist Christian Beuse.
Graun’s A-Minor Gamba Concerto is a real monster. One of five concerti that Graun wrote for Frederick’s court gambist, the virtuoso Ludwig Christian Hesse, the piece clocks in at nearly 25 minutes. The first movement is tempestuous, with sudden silences and dramatic ebbs and flows, demanding virtuosity and precision from not only the soloist but the orchestra as well. A tender Arioso in C Major provides a respite from the drama, but does not let up on the technical demands, while the closing Allegro blends fireworks with elegant restraint. Gambist Jan Freiheit handles the demanding solo part with grace and power. However, the recording’s engineering does not do him any favors, creating a thunderously booming bass while leaving the gamba’s highest register sounding waifish and whiny at times. It simply cannot compare to the depth, power, and sparkle of Vittorio Ghielmi’s 1998 recording of the same concerto with Limoges Baroque Ensemble (Astrée 8617).
Christoph Nichelmann (1717–62) studied with both Johann Sebastian and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, and served as second harpsichordist at Frederick’s court from 1745 to 1756. The Concerto in C Minor on this album, one of at least 20 concerti for harpsichord and orchestra Nichelmann composed, shows the stylistic influence of both the elder Bach and the newer empfindsamer , or sensitive style, championed by C. P. E. Bach and the Grauns, and even points toward early Classicism. On this recording, keyboardist Raphael Alpermann plays the solo on fortepiano, but delivers a puzzling interpretation. While his articulation is searingly crisp and perfectly executed, he does not fully take advantage of the fortepiano’s expressive capabilities through techniques carried over from expressive harpsichord playing, such as rolling chords for greater emphasis or slightly dislocating a melody note as an accent. The result is disconcertingly reminiscent of Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings, and odd, considering Alpermann’s stylish, rhythmic, and expressive harpsichord playing on the Graun and Bach works and his fortepiano continuo on Frederick the Great’s Flute Sonata in C Minor, a pleasant work with its most interesting feature being its dramatic opening recitative.
The album closes with C. P. E. Bach’s quirky and fun Symphony in D, once again demonstrating the orchestra’s ability to turn on a dime, bringing out the striking tempo and affect changes that define the younger Bach’s style. The second movement is a tender accompanied duet between flute and viola da gamba, elegant and refined, and beautifully played by gambist Freiheit and flutist Christoph Huntgeburth. As on the rest of the album, the soundstage is close, yet wide enough to capture the space between instruments. Except for the unfortunate EQ problems with the gamba concerto, it makes for a delightful if idealized listening experience, with every instrumental color coming through clearly and independently without sacrificing blend and a sense of space, important conditions necessary for this capricious, witty, and highly expressive music to come alive.
1. Ouvertüre und Allegro in A Minor, GraunWV A:XI:2: I. Ouvertüre (Lento – Allegro) 8:22
2. Ouvertüre und Allegro in A Minor, GraunWV A:XI:2: II. Allegro 3:25
3. Concerto per il Cembalo Concertante in D Minor, D-B M. TH. 169: I. Allegro 7:26
4. Concerto per il Cembalo Concertante in D Minor, D-B M. TH. 169: II. Adagio sempre piano 6:13
5. Concerto per il Cembalo Concertante in D Minor, D-B M. TH. 169: III. Presto 3:46
6. Sonata, per il Flauto Traverso Solo e Basso in C Minor, “pour Potsdam No. 190”: I. Recitativo 2:09
7. Sonata, per il Flauto Traverso Solo e Basso in C Minor, “pour Potsdam No. 190”: II. Andante et Cantabile 5:09
8. Sonata, per il Flauto Traverso Solo e Basso in C Minor, “pour Potsdam No. 190”: III. III. 1:29
9. Concerto Per Il Viola Da Gamba Concertata In A Minor, Graunwv A:XIII:14: I. Allegro Moderato 10:14
10. Concerto Per Il Viola Da Gamba Concertata In A Minor, Graunwv A:XIII:14: II. Adagio (Arioso) 6:56
11. Concerto Per Il Viola Da Gamba Concertata In A Minor, Graunwv A:XIII:14: III. Allegro 7:14
12. Sinfonie No. 1 in D Major, Wq. 183, 1: I. Allegro di molto 5:47
13. Sinfonie No. 1 in D Major, Wq. 183, 1: II. Largo 1:34
14. Sinfonie No. 1 in D Major, Wq. 183, 1: III. Presto 2:51