Graupner: Gott der Herr ist Sonne und Schild

Andrea Lauren Brown, Kai Wessel, Georg Poplutz, Dominik Wörner SATB, Kirchheimer BachConsort, Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch
92:28 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
cpo 555 146-2

So many cantatas by composers other than Bach are rarely (if ever) performed, let alone recorded, simply because they were not written for either Christmas or Easter. One notable exception was a cpo recording featuring Ludger Rémy. While those were all from the same year (and thus formed a sensible unit), this new recording of five cantatas for Epiphany (otherwise known as the feast of the three kings) selects works from the latter part of Graupner’s working life at the court of Darmstadt. The number of Sundays after Epiphany varies each year because of the alignment of more significant church festivals with the actual calendar. Here, there is one cantata for the feast itself as well as the 2nd and 4th Sundays thereafter, and two for the 3rd Sunday (the GWV numbering system is slightly odd: 1111 is the code for any cantata text written for Epiphany and the two numbers after the slash are the year in which it was composed). The booklet notes explain that these particular cantatas have been chosen because of their colourful instrumentation; Graupner had always been interested in a rich sound palette; here the flauto d’amore, oboe d’amore, chalumeau, viola d’amore and a pair of horns all feature. I have published a lot of Graupner’s music and I am still amazed how much better it sounds than it looks – personally, I would have preferred a programme of his settings for Epiphany itself from his appointment as Kapellmeister until he stopped composing, which might have shown how his style developed and changed over time. That is not to criticise these performances, which are excellent; if Graupner’s recitatives would not be out of place in the Hamburg operas which had brought him to the Landgrave’s attention in the first place, seemingly inappropriate dance elements pervade the arias and chorales, yet I think the latter are actually his most original compositions – each choral phrase is framed and decorated by instruments, much in the way a baroque organist may have done. Maybe we can have a follow-up recording by these marvellous musicians of cantatas for Trinity Sunday, from key points in Graupner’s career?

Brian Clark