Forgotten chamber works with oboe from the Court of Prussia

Notturna, Christopher Palameta
deutsche harmonia mundi 1 90758 21552 5
Music by J. G. Graun, Janitsch and Krause

In the retrospective painting by Adolph von Menzel, Frederick the Great of Prussia is shown as flute soloist with an orchestra led by CPE Bach and being listened to by a number of Bach’s musical colleagues. In the audience may well have been Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, Johann Gottfried Krause and Johann Gottlied Graun, all featured here on a charming collection of music with oboe from Frederick’s Court. Although music with flute was clearly favoured by the flautist King, his court boasted a fine orchestra allowing his composers to feature most of the instruments current at this time. The presence of a truly great composer such as CPE Bach has led to Frederick’s other musical employees such as the three represented here being portrayed as mediocre. However on the evidence of the fine chamber music recorded here, while they may have lacked the originality and profound genius of Bach they were not by any means without merit. Christopher Palameta is a highly accomplished exponent of the early oboe and plays and directs Notturna with equal assurance and musicality. Of the three composers here, Janitsch is new to me, and I think I enjoyed his Sonata in B flat for traverso, oboe, viola and bc best. Graun’s A minor Quintet for traverso, oboe, viola, cello, and obbligato harpsichord is a strikingly original piece, which underlines the flexibility of make-up of chamber ensembles at the time. Graun may well have composed the prominent harpsichord part of this piece to be played by the resident keyboard virtuoso, CPE Bach. It is interesting to note that several of these musicians may well have been present when JS Bach visited the Court in 1747 and improvised the bulk of his Musical Offering – what would these Galant composers have made of that?

D. James Ross

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover more from early music review

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading