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Fanfare Magazine: 44:3 (01-02/2021) 
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CPO 5552302

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Reviewer: Bertil van Boer

The series of Passion cantatas by Christoph Graupner continues with this offering from CPO featuring the Mannheimer Hofkapelle and the vocal ensemble Ex Tempore, a well-trained early music group from which the solo sections of these works are drawn. These three works are from a series composed in 1741, and as one might expect they reflect a more modern compositional style that is more introverted and emotional. In the first work, Kommt, Seelen, the first chorus is halting at first, with the devotion (Andacht) of the title clear in the choral statements that are divided by conspicuous rests. Oboes appear selectively, and there are expostulations, even short exhortations in the chorus that are urgent. The same style is evident in the brief accompagnato that precedes the aria “Soll mein Heiland.” Here the oboe solos ask the question of whether Christ should die, while the answer is plaintively heard in the violins and soprano, clear and precisely performed by Doerthe Maria Sandmann (or one presumes; the soloists are not specified further in the notes). The second aria, “Jesus geht zum Kreuz” for baritone, has the strings closely outlining the hesitant steps, steady but plodding, with short motivic statements. This cantata, like the other two, closes with a brief chorale featuring the tune in the chorus while the instruments have short obbligato moments. One should not expect the cohesiveness of Johann Sebastian Bach, but rather a more integrated style that does not allow for the congregation to participate. The second cantata, Sie rüsten sich, begins with a scurrying introduction with oboes and upper strings softly treading about each other before the chorus merges into the texture with soft ease. The first aria is mysterious, perhaps even a bit spooky, in its soft, mournful tone. This contrasts similarly to the first cantata in the second aria with a gentle minuet, and in the final chorale each ritornello of the ensemble and chorus is punctuated by a lone bassoon quietly running up the scale, even at the final cadence. This is a neat and quite unusual bit of orchestration. The final cantata, Jesus, auf daß er heiligte das Volk, includes an ensemble of three oboes, something one finds in Bach on occasion. The woodwind sound is nicely interwoven with the choral portions. The first aria is rather plaintive in a minor key reflecting the “saurer Gang” of the text, while the final aria is more upbeat. All of these are inflected with good writing for the oboes.

There are a couple of things that one should remember about the Graupner cantatas. First, he and Georg Philipp Telemann were masters of the genre, each composing well over 1,000 of them. Second, Graupner was still active as a church composer in 1741, perhaps a decade after Bach had concluded the bulk of his cantata compositions for Leipzig. Third, Graupner was able to adapt his style to the emerging Empfindsamkeit without compromising either convention or the needs of the Lutheran service. Finally, he had at his disposal a fine set of instrumentalists and for them he wrote in a manner that was both solid and yet offered good, well-thought-out textures.

As with the other two discs of Passion cantatas, the interpretations are sensitive and precise. The tempos are flowing, not rushed, and the intonation of both chorus and instruments excellent. While there may be a limited market for Graupner’s myriad of cantatas, this is one disc well worth having.


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