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Johan van Veen
MusicWeb International, November 2010

It is admirable that the German label Phoenix is releasing recordings from the archives of the German radio channel WDR3 in Cologne. Some of them have been previously released by another German label, Capriccio. It would have been even better, if the production had been more careful. The recording date of the Fasch Overture is not given, the date of the Graupner is printed as 26.012991 which I have interpreted as 26 January 1991, but your guess is as good as mine. And on top of it the liner-notes are not particularly informative and partly speculative.

I had expected the author of the liner-notes to explain, for instance, that all four compositions are called ‘Overture’, but that Graun’s Overture is fundamentally different from the other three. The Overtures by Heinichen, Graupner and Fasch are written in the tradition of the French-style overture-suite, which was very popular in Germany in the first half of the 18th century. It was modelled after the overtures of the French opera composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, although he would probably not have recognized them as French. They are called ‘overture’ after the first movement which is always in ABA form. It is followed by a series of dance movements and ‘airs’.

The most traditional scoring of this kind of Overtures was strings and bc, with two oboes and bassoon. That is the scoring of the Overture in G by Johann David Heinichen. In his liner-notes Benjamin Ivry writes: “Heinichen received a law degree from Leipzig University, which may account for the sometimes acerbic, willful edge to his melodies, as well as their rhetorical mastery”. I don’t see what the law degree has to do with the character of Heinichen’s music, whose description is questionable anyway. Mastery of rhetoric is nothing exceptional: all German composers of that time had been thoroughly taught in musical rhetoric, as this was one of the basics of musical composition. Heinichen was, like Christoph Graupner, a pupil of Johann Kuhnau, the Leipzig Thomaskantor until his death in 1722. He was one of Germany’s most acclaimed music teachers, so that is where both got it from.

It is another mark of this production that only in Graupner’s case is the scoring given. Here we have a piece without oboes and bassoon. The strings are joined by three chalumeaux—the liner-notes don’t even mention them. The chalumeau is often described as the predecessor of the clarinet, but that isn’t quite true. In a serenade by Telemann, for instance, both instruments appear alongside each other. Telemann was one of the first who wrote for the chalumeau, and the instrument also frequently appears in music by Graupner. The role of the three chalumeaux in this Overture is different from that of the oboes and the bassoon in Heinichen’s Overture. The latter play mostly colla parte with the violins, and are only used as solo instruments in the B sections of the bourrée and rigaudon. The chalumeaux in Graupner’s Overture are true solo instruments which play the central role in the whole work.

Like Graupner Johann Friedrich Fasch was considered one of Germany’s leading composers in the first half of the 18th century. And like Heinichen and Graupner he had been a pupil of Kuhnau in Leipzig. For two years he worked in Dresden, where he met Heinichen again, who was Kapellmeister at the court. Like Telemann Fasch wrote a large number of orchestral overtures. This Overture in B flat is notable for its scoring for two instrumental groups. The strings are joined here by two oboes and two bassoons, divided over the two orchestras.

Lastly, Johann Gottlieb Graun. He was one of two brothers; the other being Carl Heinrich. The latter was mainly known for his vocal music, in particular his operas, and his oratorio Der Tod Jesu. Johann Gottlieb composed mainly instrumental music, although it isn’t always possible to be sure which of the two is the composer: they mostly signed their works with ‘Graun’, without Christian name. As already indicated, the piece played here may be called ‘Overture’, but it is quite different from the other Overtures. It consists of two movements without tempo indication. The first is in two sections: slow–fast. The fast section is by far the longest, and towards the end Graun returns briefly to the slow first section. But it is certainly no dacapo, so the structure of this movement is not ABA as in the traditional overtures. The second movement is again in a fast tempo. This Overture is much more like an Italian opera overture, and stylistically it belongs to another era. That is also reflected by the inclusion of two horn parts in the scoring. Horns were seldom used in baroque music, but in the second quarter of the 18th century they were becoming more and more a standard part of the orchestra.

This disc is commendable mainly because of the repertoire. The recordings are about twenty years old, and that shows. Furthermore, Hans-Martin Linde—originally a recorder player—has never been the most flamboyant of conductors, and sometimes the performances are a bit awkward, for instance the first movement of Heinichen’s Overture in G. In comparison the recording of a number of Heinichen’s concertos by Musica antiqua Köln (Archiv, 1992) is a lot better. But Fasch and Graun are well done, and the Overture by Graupner is really worthwhile, in particular because of the contribution of the three chalumeaux.

All in all, this is a nice disc to listen to and it is good that these recordings are available again, even though the performances are not top notch. If only Phoenix had been more careful.

Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, September 2009

…moderate tempo choices, technically adroit playing, good blend between sections, and plenty of energy…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.

Uncle Dave Lewis, July 2009

Phoenix Edition’s Overtures features period instrument orchestra Cappella Coloniensis under the direction of Hans-Martin Linde in four late Baroque overtures in the French style; that is, they are really suites consisting of dances fitted with a short overture at the opening, though the work by Johann Gottlieb Graun does not follow this plan. The disc opens with a burly, swaggering Overture in C major by Dresden court composer Johann David Heinichen; this is followed by a more galant overture by Christoph Graupner that has the unusual instrumental component of three chalumeaux, instruments that were a predecessor to the clarinet; the Graupner work is the latest sounding music on the disc, even though Graun lived longer than he. Fasch’s bright and snappy Overture in B flat sounds the closest to Johann Sebastian Bach of these pieces with its rapid-fire rhythms, mingling of high trumpet and high string parts, and murderous ensemble passages for the bassoons. Of these four overtures, one cannot resist stating that the Fasch seems to be the most interesting and best—it is also the longest. The shortest is the Graun Overture in D minor; it stands stylistically halfway between the Fasch and Graupner, having a sense of Handelian graciousness, but also possessing some measure of the seriousness and gravity more typical of the Mannheim school. In this respect, Graun’s is a strange Baroque overture, and as it is only in two movements lacking tempo indications, one wonders if it is complete.

Despite Phoenix Edition’s stated purpose of raising something from the ashes of the august German label Capriccio, these recordings of Cappella Coloniensis do not appear to have been issued before. Co-branded by WDR and bearing the device “The Cologne Broadcasts,” these appear to be recordings from the vaults, made by Linde and Cappella Coloniensis between 1987 and 1991. There is some variability in sound, and ironically the older the recordings are, it seems, the better. The performances are decent without being great, although the Fasch is pretty impressive and that seems to have been the most difficult among these pieces.

Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2009

WDR broadcasts from Cologne offer wonderful performances by Cappella Coloniensis, of clarinet concertos by Carl and Johann Stamitz (Phoenix177) Cherubini’s Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn, beautifully sung by Marilyn Schmiege, Martyn Hill and Paolo Barbacini and Symphony in D Major (Phoenix175), symphonies by Gossec, Vanhal, Mahaut and Kraus (Phoenix174), flute concertos by Frederick the Great, Telemann and Fasch (Phoenix172), overtures by Heinchen, Graupner (with prominent use of a pair of clarinets), Fasch and Graun (noticeably old fashioned) (Phoenix173), and a Haydn disc featuring several cantatas, well sung by Schmiege, the Fourth Violin Concerto, well played by Ingrid Siefert and the Symphony No.92 (Phoenix176). All these discs are worthwhile, but the symphonies, Haydn and Cherubini discs are essential.

Peter Loewen
American Record Guide, May 2009

The Overture Suite was a favorite form of concerto among German patrons, as one can tell by the huge number of works of this sort composed in the late baroque period. Telemann composed more than 100 of them, and the works by Graupner, Heinichen, Fasch, and Graun on this release fall into the same category. Each of their concertos begins with a majestic “French Overture” followed by a series of courtly dance movements: Aires, Bourrées, Sarabands, Polonaises, Minuets, and so forth.

Christoph Graupner (1683–1760) composed more than 80 concertos. His Concerto in C, performed here, is particularly interesting for its orchestration. It calls for three solo chalumeau (forerunner of the clarinet) and viola d’amore. The viola d’amore was a favorite instrument of Graupner’s patron Ernst-Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt. The movements are melodically driven and accompanied by simple harmonies that evoke the aesthetics of the early classical period.

The Concerto in B-flat by Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688–1758) has more fireworks. The orchestration itself seems lively, perhaps because of the variety of wind instruments, including oboes, horns, and bassoons, which Fasch adds to the usual ripieno ensemble of strings. The use of horns on long pedal points sometimes replaces the role of the continuo. It is another indication of the change of aesthetics that attended the early classical period.

Johann Gottlieb Graun (1703–71) was employed at the court of Frederick II of Prussia. His Overture in D minor contrasts strikingly with the other works on the program. The minor mode is distinctive enough, but the music also sounds more baroque in character. In this case, the harmonic palette is more highly varied, which gives the impression of greater instability. The exciting shifts from one harmony to the other create the sort dazzle that one associates with late baroque composers like Lully.

I especially like the use of period wind instruments in Graupner and Graun’s Overtures. One seldom hears orchestral works for this instrumentation.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2009

Works by four of Telemann's contemporaries are expertly performed by the Cologne Cappella directed by Hans-Martin Linde, an expert wind player himself. This was the pop music of the 18th century, with the exception that it was enjoyed by the aristocracy, to the near-total exclusion of the masses. But who's to argue with history? This is a delightful divertissement expertly recorded.

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