Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Heinichen, Graupner, Fasch, Graun: Overtures - C. Coloniensis

Heinichen, Graupner, Fasch, Graun
Cappella Coloniensis, Hans-Martin Linde
Phoenix Edition 173

These recordings have been in and out of the catalog since they were first recorded back in the late 1980s. They display all the virtues of other Cappella Coloniensis CDs of a similar vintage: moderate tempo choices, technically adroit playing, good blend between sections, and plenty of energy. On the negative side, they suffer from the same problems: an oversized acoustic and distant miking, which results in less bite to accents and phrases, as well as a moderate loss of instrumental color (though to be fair, this isn’t the case with the three Graupner chalumeau soloists, placed in a sonic spotlight). The pleasure derived from these performances is consequently compromised, though not entirely lost.

As for the music, these Baroque overture-suites run the gamut from two movements to seven, providing an unsystematic and personal mix of overture, dance movements, and airs. One of the gems is the Graupner, unusual for its harmonic waywardness, chalumeau section, and rhythmically accurate Polonaise. Is it the composer’s answer to Telemann’s so-called “Polish” concertos, exaggerating eccentric effects supposedly heard from rural folk musicians? If so, it certainly hits the mark. The more conventional Heinichen combines inventiveness, memorable turns, and excellent craft. The Zerbst Kapellmeister, Fasch, is typically more conservative than either, but his overture-suite is lively, imaginative, and sparkling in its rhythmic élan—most notably in a lengthy, flowing Minuet, and a beguiling Passapied. Only the Graun lowers the ceiling of inspiration. It is technically competent, but pedestrian. The fugal portion of the first of its two movements is a fine piece of workmanship, however—not unexpected from a man to whom J. S. Bach entrusted the musical education of his eldest son.

The liner notes are very brief and devoid of nearly all pertinent information, but bizarre enough to wish they were longer. We are told that among other matters, Heinichen’s law degree “may account for the sometimes acerbic, willful edge to his melodies.” Something to consider for young modern composers, who might want to avoid ambulance chasing if they wish someday to write like Puccini.

I hope someone will commit the Graupner and Heinichen to disc again in the near future, and in more forward sound. For now, though, if you want to hear either piece, this is the only version available, and certainly worth hearing.

Barry Brenesal, Fanfare

No comments:

Post a Comment