I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Friedrich der Grosse

Friederich grosse Akademie für Alte Musik—Berlin (Akamus) has published a new recording, celebrating the 300-year anniversary of the birth of Frederick the Great with music by J. Graun, Nichelmann, and CPE Bach, not to mention the monarch himself (Flute Sonata in c-moll). The blue painting/cover caught my eye when shopping abroad; I had seen this release via iTunes at home in the US, but decided to pick it up when I saw it at Harold Moores Records in London. I hadn't the highest hopes for the music, as I already had recordings by Graun and the Potsdam court composers by the likes of Collegium Musicum 90. Save for the flute sonata, these are all orchestral works, an opening "Overture and Allegro," a keyboard concerto by Nichelmann, a Viola da gamba concerto by Graun, and the Bach symphony #1 in D (Wq 183/1). Recorded in a reverberant space, the Teldex Studio in Berlin (believed by some to be among the best recording spaces in Berlin), this is a 2012 release that reminds me in spirit of the releases by Musica Antiqua Köln of works from Dresden. The more folks who record this gal ante material from Frederick's court, the more the works enter the canon, including the composers whom we aren't so familiar (Nichelmann and Frederick, specifically here). First, the Bach concerto I already have in recordings; this one seems like it just may be the fastest on record yet, and by that measure, likely the most virtuosic, too. A harpsichord plays as part of the basso continuo (whereby fortepiano is used in the other works, such as the Nichelmann Cembalokonzert). When the flutes and oboes and bassoon play in the Bach symphony, the sound of the acoustic space really shines. It's quite glorious with air around the wind instruments. The violins are the strongest, loudest component; I would have only wished for more double bass. Akamus play with dynamic variation, but probably not as dramatically as other readings; yet, their playing, with the most rustic of horns, really plays up the musical genius of one of Bach's most famous sons. While viola da gamba suites and concertos are the norm for G. Phillip Telemann, Graun's contribution is no less special. Built of similar musical fabric as the Bach symphony, this work, written in A-moll, is full of dramatic opportunities. It's clearly written in gal ante language, a baroque sound world with very melodic, long musical phrases. It also calls to mind some of Haydn's Sturm und Drang flavor, although the music is closer to baroque style than Haydn's classicism. Frederick the Great wasn't known particularly for being the strongest of virtuosos, so his piece sits center on the recording, sounding ever so more pedestrian than the louder orchestral pieces. The flute playing is captured in a large acoustic, with piano, which makes for an interesting sound world. The playing by both performers is expressive, and I enjoyed Mr. Huntgeburth on flute. The piece really takes you to a different place; not so much for the writing or even the instrumentation, but the magical recording. It's both peaceful and graceful recording. It was fun to close my eyes, imagining the king performing it for his teacher, J.J. Quantz. Seeing Quantz was a special advisor to the king, I often wonder what their relationship was really like. The third movement is the most baroque, aligning its style more closely to something by Quantz, and for me, even evoking the flute part in the trio sonata by J. S. Bach of his BWV 1079 trio sonata. The third movement of the Nichelmann Cembalokonzert is the most energetic and special; it might have been by CPE Bach. This music, along with the instrument, were cutting edge when composed. The piece is but another excellent exemplar from Frederick's court. It makes all for a really nice concert on record. Recommended.

Bach Harpsichord Works - Rannou

Rameau: Pièces de clavecin en concerts