The title for this release is a little deceptive. True, it’s a collection of chamber music from Frederick the Great’s court. But it’s not all by Johann Gottlieb Graun.
Rather, it’s a collection of music from Graun and his colleagues at court: Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, Franz Benda, and brother Carl Heinrich Graun. And that, I think, makes for a much more interesting program.
Collectively these composers were transitioning from the Baroque to the Classical era. The melodic lines, generally free of ornamentation look towards Haydn and Mozart. The use of basso continuo carries on the traditions of Bach and Handel.
It’s an interesting sampling of chamber music, made more so by the performances. Sisters Augusta and Georgina McKay Lodge (violin and viola respectively) lead the ensemble. Both have extensive experience in early music.
Their playing, along with their fellow musicians, nicely captures that feeling of transition. The ensemble has a clear, clean sound foreshadowing the Classical Era. David Schulenberg (harpsichord) and Eva Lymenstull (cello) provide a solid basso continuo, with Schulenberg ornamenting and improvising in a late Baroque style — as I imagine performers of the day might.
This is chamber music that captures a moment in time. A moment poised between two style periods. And it’s a moment effectively realized by these fine musicians.
Johann Gottlieb Graun: Chamber Music from the Court of Frederick the Great
Augusta McKay Lodge, violin; Georgina McKay Lodge, viola; Eva Lymenstull, cello; David Schulenberg, harpsichord
Brilliant Classics 96289