Product details

om5 / Volume 2
Carl Heinrich Graun (1703/4–1759)
Sechs italienische Kantaten
Six italian cantatas
for tenor, Str and Bc
Edited by Christoph Henzel
Single editions available

Carl Heinrich Graun was born at Wahrenbrück, Saxony in 1703 or 1704. After a comprehensive musical training at the Dresden Kreuzschule he was engaged as tenor in the Hofkapelle of the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. He soon made himself a name as a composer of the then modern Italian style. He joined the service of the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick in Ruppin and Rheinsberg, where his elder brother Johann Gottlieb, who later became concert-master of the Prussian Hofkapelle, was already engaged. On Frederick´s accession to the throne in 1740, Graun was appointed conductor of the royal orchestra (Hofkapellmeister). He died on August 8th, 1759.

“We won´t hear such a singer again” Frederick II is said to have exclaimed when he learned of the death of Carl Heinrich Graun. Unlike anybody else Graun represented a way of composing which was based on a singable melody, i.e. on the ideal of the Bel canto, and which was so highly reputed for its moving, deeply touching effect. Especially his Italian cantatas are considered to be a classic example of this.

During his time in Brunswick, Ruppin and Rheinsberg, it was part of Graun´s duties to compose Italian cantatas. Apart from all official functions such works served the purpose of entertaining the intimate circle of the court. It seems that even after being appointed Hofkapellmeister, Graun was occasionally involved with writing such pieces.

Graun followed the conventions of his time in the historic and pastoral subjects of his cantatas. This was also true of the formal basic patterns, alternating twice recitative and aria as well as the shortened form aria - recitative - aria. Moreover, the only form of aria he used was the da capo aria. With regard to singing technique, Graun modelled his compositions on his own voice. Consequently, most of his cantatas were written for tenor and only a few of them are proved to have been intended for soprano. However, records indicate that the voices could be interchanged. Instrumental accompaniment was equally variable: Sometimes pieces to be performed with string accompaniment seem to have been reinforced by wind instruments or, in other cases, they were performed with a thorough-bass as the only accompaniment.

(from the preface by Christoph Henzel, translation by Katrin Liebscher)

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