Johann Gottlieb Graun: Concertos (FLAC)
Johann Gottlieb Graun: Concertos (FLAC)

Composer: Johann Gottlieb Graun
Performer: Ilja Korol, Daniel Sepec, Vittorio Ghielmi
Orchestra: Vienna Academy Orchestra
Conductor: Martin Hasselbock
Audio CD
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks+cue)
Label: Cpo
Size: 415 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Sinfonia Grosso in D major: I. Allegro maestoso
02. Sinfonia Grosso in D major: II. Arietta: Grazioso
03. Sinfonia Grosso in D major: III. Allegro scherzando
04. Violin Concerto in D minor: I. Allegro
05. Violin Concerto in D minor: II. Adagio
06. Violin Concerto in D minor: III. Allegro assai
07. Violin Concerto in A major: I. Allegretto
08. Violin Concerto in A major: II. Largo
09. Violin Concerto in A major: III. Allegro assai
10. Viola da Gamba Concerto in A major: I. Allegretto
11. Viola da Gamba Concerto in A major: II. Adagio
12. Viola da Gamba Concerto in A major: III. Allegro

undeservedly obscure

The bros. Graun worked in the court of the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick, reputedly an elite flautist in his own right. The blurb for this collection gives a lengthy historical context for the promulgation of these works, though, as noted by other blurbists, the true ascriptions may never be known.

But, make no mistake, this music has great charm, panache, and is full of invention. It does indeed pay homage to the late German Baroque, and looks forward to Hayden, Mozart, even early Beethoven.

There are four works, beginning with a “Sinfonia Grosso”, a bright bouncey work…just the thing to settle an audience. Two sparkling outer movements,framing a short moving air.

Thence to the twin hearts of this disc..the two violin concerti. Wonderful…perhaps not the sonorities of Vivaldi, or Corelli, or Geminiani…but these were essentially written for a smallish ensemble playing at court. To me, the slow movements are real gems, and beautifully played and recorded. The faster movements are full of genuine virtuosity, for those who like pyrotechnics, but the technical dificulties are not there for show…they belong.

I also enjoyed, if only for its uncommon-ness, the Viola da Gamba Concerto. This too is full of special effects,as it were.
I’ve never heard this instrument live, so presume that it is not so loud, or penetrating. Again, the middle adagio is its true heart.

I had reviewed another disc of (purportedly)Graun works, and took issue with the recording itself. No so here…excellent balance, crystal clarity throughout, and no blasting brass or harshness.

Although the blurb is entertaining, the minutiae of history is over the top.

Another excellent essay into the pre-classical musical milieu.
Keep up the good work, lads.

An unexpected delight

I got hooked on the Grauns after reading Michael O’Loghlin’s book on Frederick the Great’s gamba players and went in search of anything recorded – the gambists of Frederick’s court formed the last bastion of virtuoso viol playing before the end of the eighteenth century and their music is fabled for its difficulty. I stumbled on this disc and am glad I did. All of the works on this disc are fascinating and wonderfully played. The Sinfonia grosso is a rambunctious work with a brilliant brass-heavy orchestration; the violin concerto in D minor is a taut and dramatic work something in the style of J.S. Bach; the A major concerto sweet; but the real highlight is the electrifying playing of Vittorio Ghielmi in the A major viola da gamba concerto. A typical Graun concerto is a reasonably sprawling work that hangs together through a unity of mood rather than an organic obsession with motif or counterpoint; accordingly, sympathetic performance is critical and the soloists and orchestra on this recording deliver it in spades. The Grauns are a little like C.P.E. Bach with the odd bits removed, but the music is generally attractive and sometimes highly affecting. Highly recommended, and probably the best of five or six discs of the instrumental music of the Graun family I now own.

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