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Johan van Veen
MusicWeb International, February 2009

Naoko Akutagawa shows her impressive technical skills in this programme of pieces which are often very virtuosic. That is not only the case in the preludes, which are played with the appropriate touch of improvisation, but also in the large Chaconne—probably one of the longest in the 18th century. It is another bow to tradition in that it is a passacaille bass but slightly extended. It was originally part of the Partita in A which opens this disc, but played here independently. Ms Akutagawa plays it brilliantly with an intensity which never fades. Other highlights are the air with variations which ends the Partita in C minor and the three menuets from the Partita in F minor. She has a very good sense of the rhythm of the dance movements: listen, for instance, to the courante from the Partita in A. Only the menuets of the Partitas in A and in C minor could have been played with a little more elegance; Ms Akutagawa's performance is a bit too robust to my taste.

I mentioned some highlights in this recording, but in fact that is hardly necessary as this disc is captivating from beginning to end. If you are sceptical about the quality of a composer whose name hardly ever appears on the concert programmes of keyboard players, just purchase this disc. I am sure it will convince you that Graupner was a great composer whose name deserves to be mentioned in one breath with the likes of Telemann, Fasch, and - indeed - Johann Sebastian Bach. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if you end up looking for more. Thanks to Naoko Akutagawa and her wonderful recording.



Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International, October 2008

On the present disc the Japanese harpsichordist Naoko Akutagawa plays three of Graupner’s partitas, plus a substantial movement from a fourth. The ‘Winter’ partita was published in 1733; the others come from a manuscript collection generally known as the Darmstädter Clavierbuch, copied by Samuel Endler, vice-Kapellmeister at the Darmstadt Court (where Graupner held the position of Kapellmeister from 1712 until his death), and containing work by Kuhnau and Telemann as well as Graupner. The works in this manuscript tend to be more technically demanding than the works Graupner published, requiring a player of the virtuosity for which Graupner himself was renowned.

Naoko Akutagawa shows herself well able to meet the technical demands of the music. In Graupner’s usage ‘Partita’ means a suite of dance-based movements. Thus, for example, the Partita in F minor (‘Winter’) has six movements: Paeludium (Largo) - Allemande - Courante - Menuets, I, II and III - Air en Sarabande - Bourée en Rondeau. Elsewhere the movements include arias with variations. Akutagawa plays the music with confidence and technical certainty, and is at her most striking in the grander, more formal movements. The Praeludium to the Partita in C minor, for example, sounds particularly fine, played with a nice sense of gravity and space, beautifully unhurried and stately, but with some nice variations of tempo. The allemands in each partita are also played very attractively and persuasively. If I have a slight reservation it would be that in some of the more ‘courtly’ movements—such as the three sarabandes, it might have been nice to hear just a bit more lyrical expressiveness.



Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, September 2008

On the strength of the chamber and orchestral music of Graupner that I have heard on recordings (he is rarely programmed in concerts,) I had until now considered him a competent also-ran of a period rich in overlooked musical prodigies and geniuses. I stand humbly corrected now: on the basis of these three partitas, Graupner now stands on a much loftier level, even far above Telemann. My newly found  admiration for this composer lies in no small measure to the superb artistry of Ms. Akutagawa (any relation to composer Yasushi Akutagawa, I wonder?). The cathedral acoustical setting for the recording adds to the lustre of the music too. What I found rather disappointing was  not a word about the magnificent-sounding instrument she plays.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2008

For the lovers of Baroque music this is going to be their discovery of the year. Who was Johann Christoph Graupner? Well, put him into context with the fact that city of Leipzig wanted him to take their top music job in preference to Johann Sebastian Bach. When his present employer declined Graupner’s request for dismissal, Leipzig chose Bach instead. Born in Saxony in 1683, we eventually find him, after serving his apprentice years, in Hamburg at the Gansemarket opera where he made his mark on German music. Financially tempted to Darmstadt in 1709, he enjoyed working there with the high quality musical resources at his disposal where he worked until his death in 1760. He could there indulge in , composing large-scale vocal and orchestral works including 1442 cantatas, and a sizable catalogue of instrumental music that contained a series of Partitas for Harpsichord. The word ‘Partitas’ maybe somewhat of a misnomer as they were Suites of dances, their outgoing flamboyance akin to the Italian school of Domenico Scarlatti. That brilliance is particularly heard in the exhilarating Chaconne in A (track 15). Graupner was a virtuoso of the harpsichord, and would have performed these challenging compositions. His most ambitious were the Partitas covering The Four Seasons. If he completed the score, then the music sadly is lost, and we are left with an often blustery picture of Winter captured in dance rhythms. The performances are given by a young Japanese harpsichordist, Naoko Akutagawa, who studied in Germany as a student of the eminent Glen Wilson. The sheer pulsating brilliance of her playing stand among the most exciting harpsichord discs I have encountered for decades. The dexterity, punchy technique and willingness to take very fast tempos is breathtaking. But how can Naxos fail to give us the make of instrument she plays? Do they not understand that this is exceedingly important to those interested in Baroque music. I am probably wrong, but this sounds like a genuine period instrument. The sound really grips you from the first to last bar, and the engineers have not been afraid of some mechanical noise in order that we get the undiluted feel of the instrument. Fabulous, but please Naxos can we have much more from Akutagawa, you have struck gold.






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9:44:17 AM, 26 December 2014
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