CH Graun, Franz Benda, JG Graun, Kirnberger &Frederick the Great, Müthel, Quantz: Sonatas by Franz Benda, JG Graun, CH Graun, Quantz, Müthel, Kirnberger &Frederick the Great

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COMPOSERS: CH Graun,Franz Benda,JG Graun,Kirnberger &Frederick the Great,Müthel,Quantz
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Sonatas by Franz Benda, JG Graun, CH Graun, Quantz, Müthel, Kirnberger &Frederick the Great
PERFORMER: Barthold Kuijken (flute), Wieland Kuijken (cello), Bob van Asperen (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 66267

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The paradoxical nature of Frederick the Great could hardly be better summarised than by a contemporary who remarked that he ‘weeps when reading a scene from Racine or when moved by the loyalty of his soldiers’. A court that attracted musical talent like that of CPE Bach or men of letters such as Voltaire must have been anything but dull and Frederick himself, for all his stubborn ways, was susceptible to progressive thinking of the time.

Lasting advancements in music resulted from his patronage and this disc is something of a roll-call of composers who served at his various residences in and around Berlin between 1740 and c1765. Frederick’s own instrument was the flute, for which he himself wrote over a hundred sonatas. One of the best of them is included in Barthold Kuijken’s recital. All but one of the remaining six are by his most favoured court composers, Franz Benda, JG and CH Graun, Kirnberger and Quantz.

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The odd-man-out is JG Müthel, who had little or nothing to do with Frederick. Kuijken plays with sensibility and affection, his feeling for ornament often providing a welcome distraction from routine elements in the music, little of which is memorable. But it possesses unflagging amiability and, one suspects, the expressive and technical range was judiciously tailored to royal taste and expertise. Nicholas Anderson