Born into a family of renowned Québécois musicians, Geneviève Soly was eight years old when she realised that she was going to be a performer. This revelation came while she was listening to an LP [...]
They spoke about it
The harpsichord music of Christoph Graupner (1683-1760) comprises a total of forty partitas and three independent pieces. No more than seven partitas have been published in a modern edition, four of which are in an edition that is now out of print. Graupner writes essentially in the French style, with occasional references to the Italian manner, this most notably in the Airs. One also detects an undeniable predilection for counterpoint, a technique favored by German composers, particularly in his gigues.
In accordance with the German tradition, the specific key chosen for a partita is given to all the movements of the work. In addition to the variety of traditional dance forms (Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuet and Gigue), his partitas feature movements rarely used at the time, such as the Loure and the Sommeille (sic) (!). The partitas bring together between five and fourteen movements. Their key structures include almost all possible keys, with the exception of the chromatic keys of C sharp, F sharp and A flat, which were hardly ever used then. What’s more, one might wonder why Graupner never wrote a harpsichord partita in the customary keys of B flat Major and B Minor.
For performers, these partitas display a striking level of originality and invention. One feels Graupner must have been a vivacious, passionate and cultured man with accomplished technical skills. A palpable sense of humor is also apparent in his music. The main characteristics of his musical language are the great virtuosity required for performing the runs and scales that are used at length, as well as a distinct playfulness. One also comes to realize that Graupner is part of a strong tradition of improvisation; some of these “improvised moments” are carefully notated in his compositions.
Partita X in A Minor, GWV 118, Monatliche Clavier Früchte (Darmstadt, 1722)
The source used for this recording is the only extant copy of the original edition of this set. It features twelve Partitas (GWV 109 to 120) and is kept at Yale University. The Partitas are titled according to the months of the year, for the sole purpose of classification. In light of the following collection, this music is more cheerful while being more accessible technically for performers; its substance, less cerebral, is undeniably genuine and with a greater degree of spontaneity. An unifying motif is found in the Prelude, the Sarabande and the Loure. These same movements also feature the arpeggio and ornamental motif dear to Graupner.
Partita I in C Major, GWV 101, from the Partien auf das Clavier (Darmstadt, 1718)
The source material used for this recording originates from a manuscript remarkable for its clarity, meticulous calligraphy and the great care given to it over the years. The work of an unidentified copyist, it dates from the eighteenth century and is part of the Rinck collection, in the Lowell Mason Collection at Yale University (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library). An original edition can be found at the Darmstadt library.
The Partien auf das Clavier, including eight Partitas (GWV 101 to 108), were published by Graupner at his own expense, as was usual at the time. In the “Foreword to Readers,” Graupner provides information on fingering, and more specifically on the thumb and hand crossings required for scales. He emphasizes that his work is meant neither for great virtuosos nor for amateurs, but rather for those who wish to improve their playing. His aim, as he writes it, is our enjoyment, rather than a means to some “bragging fame” (!).
In his music for harpsichord, Christoph Graupner frequently links movements together with easily recognizable musical motifs. This Partita provides a fine example: an ascending scale serves as unifying motif in five of its seven movements. In addition, he makes ample use of what might be called “the ornamental musical motif,” mostly at the end of the Allemande, in the Sarabande and the first Courante (in the Italian style), in sharp contrast with the second Courante (in the French style), which could well have been written forty years earlier.
The charming Gavotte, entitled Rigaudon and featuring a catchy Rondeau, concludes the work on a joyful and soothing note, in perfect tune with the key of C Major. However similar they may be in terms of harmonic evolution, the third and fourth episodes prove ravishing in their elegance. Graupner’s style may evoke that of other composers, the styles of which he integrates with great subtlety.
There are some clearly discernable influences in this Partita: the C Major Three-Part Invention by J.S. Bach (Praeludium), Sylvius Leopold Weiss (Allemande), Sixième Ordre by François Couperin (Rigaudon en Rondeaux [sic]).
Partita in A Major, GWV 149, circa 1720
The source used for this recording was published by the Éditions Fuzeau in 1993, with a preface by Dr Oswald Bill. It is a facsimile edition reproducing the only source of seventeen Partitas never published by Graupner, either in his lifetime or after his death. The manuscript in question (D-DS Mus. ms. 1231) was copied around 1720 by Samuel Endler, one of the official copyists hired at the court at Darmstadt.
It contains several inaccuracies, and corrections had to be made, sometimes extensively, as in the Chaconne. The Partita starts with a Praeludium. Much in the style of other German works for organ from the seventeenth century, it is followed by a short, four-part fugue set on a theme recalling the vocal style of the Renaissance.
The Menuet recalls the compositions of a renowned lute player, S.L. Weiss, mentioned earlier. Weiss, a friend of J.S. Bach, held a post at the court at Dresden and during the 1710’s and 1720’s wrote dozens of solo Suites (a term synonymous with partita) for his instrument. Graupner shows a predilection for the Air (which he also refers to as Aria) in the style of Handel, with or without variations. His airs often display great lyricism, as does the undeniably operatic Aria from this Partita. The Bourrée is disarmingly simple. With extremely limited thematic material, Graupner creates sheer delight in this amusing piece. The Gigue, for its part, is at times reminiscent of Domenico Scarlatti.
The five Chaconnes composed by Graupner are remarkable works in every respect. The scope and the structure of the Chaconne in A Major share a number of features with J.S. Bach’s Partita in D Minor for solo violin. Consisting of an extensive development on a descending tetrachord in three sections (major – minor – major), it integrates the whole spectrum of technical possibilities and all types of virtuoso writing. Its spirit recalls the great Passacaille in G Minor for keyboard by Georg Muffat (1690).
Graupner was an eminently skillful composer, unfailingly original in both his innovative and his more traditional styles. His music, not only deserves our closer attention, but more importantly, is also worthy of a recognition long overdue in the revival of the Baroque performing practices we have experienced since the 1950s.
© Geneviève Soly, November 30, 2001
(translation: Marc Hyland)
The Harpsichord—Instrument used in this recording
Hubbard Broekman 1998, Hamburg-style double-manual harpsichord after the designs practices of H.A. Hass, ca. 1730’s.
—Range: 61 notes, five octaves, FF-f”’, transposing.
—Disposition: Upper manual 1 x 8′; lower manual 1 x 8′, 1 x 4′, buff stop.
Lower manual slides in to engage upper-manual dog-legged jacks. Though we tend to refer to them as such, coherent schools of harpsichord making were not so much national schools, as city schools.
In this view, Flemish clavesingels were expressions of the Antwerp school, French clavecins the products of Parisian builders and English harpsichords the products of London makers. There were outliers on the flanks of each school, but the money that would allow a school of harpsichord making to flourish could only be found in the cities. Almost alone in the vast reaches of Germany, Hamburg had sufficient financial activity to support a significant level of secular musical culture as well as its own school of harpsichord making.
Hieronymus Albrecht Hass was baptized at St. Jacobi Kirche, Hamburg on December 1, 1689. It is not possible to identify the shop in which H.A. Hass learned his trade. He married Margreta Doratea von Höffen on October 12, 1711, also at St. Jacobi, at which time he was listed as Instrumentenmacher. (Margreta had among her godparents Abraham van Driel, an instrument maker and Kortkamp, an organist.)
Hieronymus Albrecht became a full citizen of Hamburg on March 23, 1714, a process started on October 2, 1711. By 1715 he had settled his family in the Rackerstrasse. During that year, on April 3, a daughter, Maria Johanna, was baptized, also at St. Jacobi. At this time he was listed as a Klaviermacher. (J.S. Bach was among the applicants to fill the vacant organist’s post at St. Jacobi in 1719.)
Hieronymus’s date of death is not known. No instruments of his survive from later than 1744. His son Johann Adolph’s citizenship was granted in late 1746, the year of his earliest surviving instrument. No surviving instruments bear a joint signature. H.A. had certainly died when a grandson, Johann Albrecht, was baptized May 31, 1761.
In his Historischbiographisches Lexicon of 1790, Ernst Ludwig Gerber wrote, “The Hasses, father and son, made splendid harpsichords and clavichords which are still much sought after.” The passage of time has not given cause to amend these assessments.
© Hendrik Broekman