Friedrich Der Grosse: Music For The Berlin Court

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: CPE Bach,Frederick II,JG Graun,Nichelmann
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Friedrich Der Grosse: Music For The Berlin Court
WORKS: CPE Bach: Sinfonie No. 1; Frederick II: Flute Sonata; JG Graun: Overture and Allegro; Concerto for viola da gamba; Nichelmann: Concerto for Cembalo
PERFORMER: Akademie für Alte Musik
CATALOGUE NO: HMC902132

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This is a revealing vignette of musical life at the court of Frederick the Great. Once he broke free of his domineering father, the ‘Soldier King’, he built up an establishment of composers and performers on a scale nearly matching that of Versailles. JG Graun was a founder member. His French Overture here is an energetic piece which the Akademie plays most sensitively, wind colouring unobtrusively and, a delightful touch, the allegro opening repeated with oboes and bassoon alone. Graun’s Viola da Gamba Concerto comes to life in its dramatic allegro finale after an opening played neatly but with more caution than élan.

Though Christoph Nichelmann was a pupil of JS Bach, his style is uncompromisingly Classical. The Concerto, played on a reassuringly stable-toned fortepiano, is full of the Sturm und Drang (storm and drive) of its age, albeit rather predictable until a tonally far-fetched cadenza in the slow middle movement. Frederick’s Flute Sonata starts with a (wordless) recitative, effective despite seeming a contradiction in terms.

The best playing, of the most inspired piece, is Bach’s Sinfonie (listed as No. 1 though actually first of a late group of four). Its fire and fury is breathtaking – and superbly played. Most warmly recommended.

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George Pratt