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History has not been kind to Christoph Graupner, who is chiefly remembered as the second candidate (after Telemann) to decline the post of Kantor at Leipzig before it was offered to Bach. If Bach’s genius is now universally recognized and Telemann’s reputation is soaring again after years of neglect, Graupner remains an overlooked figure, although the music on this CD suggests he deserves much greater attention. As Kapellmeister at Darmstadt from 1712 until his death in 1760, he was, like Telemann, a prolific composer, producing around 1,500 cantatas, over 1,000 of which had texts by his brother-in-law, Johann Conrad Lichtenberg. They include the three on this CD, part of a ten-cantata series on the Passion that was performed during Lent in 1741.

Graupner also shared Telemann’s liking for unusual instrumental colours, and it’s chiefly his skill at mixing timbres that makes these cantatas so attractive. ‘Erzittre, toll und freche Welt’ features fluttery violins and occasional honking bassoon; ‘Christus, der uns selig macht’ has a soprano chalumeau and a pair of oboes; ‘Fürwahr, er trug unsere Krankheit’, a flute, bassoon and three chalumeaux. Graupner deploys these resources with a defttouch, using only a weeping violin on the forlorn soprano aria ‘Das Lamm, mein Heiland, liegt gefangen’, for example, while a wonderfully funky bassoon riffpropels the bass aria ‘Harte Herzen’. The woodwinds help to give the music a relaxed, spacious feel that is enhanced here by the small ensemble and a vocal group of only eight singers, including soloists. Their performances are impeccable, and the disc is superbly recorded in a clear acoustic that reveals every detail. I suppose you could argue that Graupner’s music is simply too charming for texts that address Christ’s suffering, but I found this a fascinating and seductive disc.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing