Cappella Coloniensis

Overtures

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Phoenix Edition's Overtures features period instrument orchestra Cappella Coloniensis under the direction of Hans-Martin Linde in four late Baroque overtures in the French style; that is, they are really suites consisting of dances fitted with a short overture at the opening, though the work by Johann Gottlieb Graun does not follow this plan. The disc opens with a burly, swaggering Overture in C major by Dresden court composer Johann David Heinichen; this is followed by a more galant overture by Christoph Graupner that has the unusual instrumental component of three chalumeaux, instruments that were a predecessor to the clarinet; the Graupner work is the latest sounding music on the disc, even though Graun lived longer than he. Fasch's bright and snappy Overture in B flat sounds the closest to Johann Sebastian Bach of these pieces with its rapid-fire rhythms, mingling of high trumpet and high string parts, and murderous ensemble passages for the bassoons. Of these four overtures, one cannot resist stating that the Fasch seems to be the most interesting and best -- it is also the longest. The shortest is the Graun Overture in D minor; it stands stylistically halfway between the Fasch and Graupner, having a sense of Handelian graciousness, but also possessing some measure of the seriousness and gravity more typical of the Mannheim school. In this respect, Graun's is a strange Baroque overture, and as it is only in two movements lacking tempo indications, one wonders if it is complete.

Despite Phoenix Edition's stated purpose of raising something from the ashes of the august German label Capriccio, these recordings of Cappella Coloniensis do not appear to have been issued before. Co-branded by WDR and bearing the device "The Cologne Broadcasts," these appear to be recordings from the vaults, made by Linde and Cappella Coloniensis between 1987 and 1991. There is some variability in sound, and ironically the older the recordings are, it seems, the better. The performances are decent without being great, although the Fasch is pretty impressive and that seems to have been the most difficult among these pieces. The liner notes, in three languages, are so pithy, short, and obviously redacted that they are hardly useful, and one would like a context for these works being presented together; save yourself the head scratching, there is no driving concept behind this program other than these are all Baroque concertos by German composers, played by the same band and conductor. Moreover, there are recorded alternatives for all of these works, though the Heinichen appears to be the rarest of the four.

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