CPO’s ambitious cycle of Christoph Graupner cantatas continues. Graupner wrote over 1,200 cantatas. This series is limited to the ten he wrote for Lent in 1741.

The first of the three cantatas included in this release is the first of the Lenten cycle. Kommt, Seelen, sied in Andacht stille (Come, ye souls, be silent in worship) sets the stage for the ensuing 40 days. It’s a quiet work, carried mostly by four solo voices. The choir is used sparingly.

Sie rüsten sich wider die Seele (The unrighteous condemnation

of the righteous Saviour) reflects the agitation of the text. The recitatives have an unsettled nature to them, with many a chromatic turn. And the instrumental ensemble accompanies with outbursts of restless energy.

Jesus, auf dass er heiligte das Volk takes a different tack. It was composed for Maundy Thursday and details Jesus’ suffering on the walk to Calgary. Here, though, we get a sense of serenity. The drama is moving towards its preordained conclusion, and Jesus seems removed from the action.

Graupner uses winds to great effect in this cantata. Their sound softens the ensemble, adding to the detached dreaminess of his setting.

The overall performances are quite good. The Barockorchester Mannheimer Hofkapelle has a clean ensemble sound. The ensemble performs with original instruments of the time. And they do so in a way that shows the strengths of the instruments (and none of the weaknesses).

The 16-voice Ex Tempore vocal ensemble is well-suited to this material. Graupner’s works were originally performed by the somewhat modest forces available at the Darmstadt court.

The more of Christoph Graupner’s music I hear, the more I want to hear. In his day, he was considered equal to Telemann and perhaps superior to Bach. Those estimations weren’t far off the mark — as this series demonstrates.

Christoph Graupner: Passion Cantatas III
Solistenensemble Ex Tempore
Barockorchester Mannheimer Hofkapelle
Florian Heyerick, director
CPO