Musicians of the Old Post Road Presents “Into The Light: Unearthed Treasures by Christoph Graupner”

April 29th, 2023, 4 pm, Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester, MA

April 30th, 2023, 4 pm, Old South Church, Boston, MA and live-streamed at www.oldpostroad.org

For over three decades, the Musicians of the Old Post Road ensemble has delighted in its mission of uncovering, exploring, and performing the works of historically overlooked communities and individuals. Based in the Greater Boston area, the ensemble specializes in the period instrument performance of dynamic and diverse music from the Baroque to early Romantic eras, focusing on works that have been lost to audiences for centuries.

On April 29 and 30, the group will bring Into The Light: Unearthed Treasures by Christoph Graupner to both in-person and online audiences. This final program of their 34th season pays homage to the prolific and gifted German composer and harpsichordist who, in his time, was as highly regarded as his contemporaries Bach, Telemann, and Handel.

Born in 1683 in Kirchberg, young Graupner received musical instruction from local musicians, including the organist Nikolaus Küster. At age 11, he followed Küster to Reichenbach, where he remained until he was admitted into the Thomasschule in Leipzig in 1696, where he lived for 10 years, studying with Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau.

In 1706, Graupner moved to Hamburg, likely due to the outbreak of war between Sweden and Saxony. The day before his arrival, the position of opera accompanist opened at the Theater am Gänsemarkt; for three years Graupner remained with the opera house, using the time to compose some eight operas of his own. In 1709 he was invited to take the position of  Vice-Kapellmeister at the court of Darmstadt after Ernest Louis, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, heard him perform. In 1711 he succeeded Kapellmeister Wolfgang Carl Briegel. For the first few years of his post, court finances enabled Grauopner to put out more operas, as well as cantatas and instrumental works, but in 1719, financial circumstances in the court began to curtail this level of activity.

In 1722, the post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig became vacant with the death of Johann Kuhnau. Telemann, the town council’s first choice to succeed him, withdrew from consideration after Hamburg offered him a salary increase. Graupner was then asked to take the position, but the Landgrave rejected his resignation from Darmstadt and offered him more money and salary payment priority. History will remember that the position of Leipzig’s Thomaskantor finally went to J.S. Bach, the council’s third option. That Graupner was considered in the same category as Telemann and Bach in his time is a testament to his high regard and outstanding talent.

He went on to live the remainder of his life in Darmstadt, composing continuously and prolifically. Not much is known about his final years, except that he was extremely busy. He wrote in May of 1740 to Johann Mattheson: “I am so overburdened by my employment, that I can hardly do anything else but must always ensure that my compositions are finished in time for a given Sunday or feast day, though other matters keep intervening.” Though blind later in life, he produced in total 1,418 sacred cantatas, twenty-four secular cantatas, 113 sinfonias, some fifty concertos, eighty suites, thirty-six chamber sonatas, and keyboard music, in addition to his operas. He was a humble man who cared little for his legacy; there are no known portraits of him, and he actually requested, according to records, that all of his works be destroyed by fire after his death.

Fortunately, his children decided to not honor this request and attempted to sell his musical estate to Landgrave Ludwig VIII, the son of Graupner’s initial employer, Ernest Louis. The new Landgrave saw no reason to shell out more money for compositions for which Graupner had already been paid, and so firmly refused their offers. In 1766, six years after Graupner’s death, his heirs tried again to sell his music to the Landgrave, but negotiations once again failed. The Landgrave passed away in 1768, and it seemed that all efforts to sell their father’s music and secure his legacy would come to naught.

It wasn’t until March of 1819 that Graupher’s descendants tried one last time to appeal to the Darmstadt court. The Grand Duke Ludwig I (formerly Landgrave Ludwig X) was a cultured man who loved art and music. Graupner’s heirs once again wrote to the court; they believed, quite rightly, that his body of work was a national treasure and deserved to be preserved and performed. Describing his music as “particularly suitable for the collection of his royal highness,” the heirs eventually received 275 florins for Graupner’s music (the equivalent of about $3,000 today), and his compositions were entered into the court library’s catalogs, where they were preserved almost too well; as far as anyone can tell, they remained neglected, unstudied, and unperformed. On September 11, 1944, the city of Darmstadt was nearly entirely destroyed by wartime fire-bombing. The music might have been lost forever, except by a stroke of good sense and good fortune; the year before, the contents of the library had been moved to a safe location for storage outside the city.

The music was returned to the city after the war, but remained largely neglected until relatively recently. Over the last 10 years or so, Graupner’s compositions have been gradually experiencing a revival, due in part to the research efforts of many academics and musicians, including Musicians of the Old Post Road. Dozens of his instrumental and vocal works have been published for the first time, and the Technische Universität Darmstadt is digitizing its musical holdings; there are about 2,000 surviving compositions by Graupner.

On April 29th and 30th, Musicians of the Old Post Road will introduce one of his many inventive flute concertos, his Trio Sonata in B Minor for flute, violin, and continuo, his Sonata in G Minor for strings and continuo, and his Sonata in G Major for flute and obbligato harpsichord. The program also includes a chaconne for strings and continuo by Graupner’s Darmstadt patron Count Ernest Louis, a quartet for flute, two violas, and continuo by his talented student Johann Fasch, and a quartet for flute, strings and continuo by his good friend Telemann.

Instrumentalists for this concert include Suzanne Stumpf, traverso, Sarah Darling and Jesse Irons, violins, Marcia Cassidy, viola, Daniel Ryan, cello, and Michael Sponseller, harpsichord, all of whom will perform on period instruments. The first performance will be on Saturday, April 29th, 2023, at 4 pm EDT at Worcester Historical Museum in Worcester, MA, and the second will be the following day, Sunday, April 30th, 2023, at 4 pm EDT at Old South Church in Boston, MA. In order to reach a wider audience, the Sunday concert will also be live-streamed at www.oldpostroad.org. The Worcester concert is co-presented with the Worcester Historical Museum (members receive a $10 discount on their ticket). The Boston concert is supported, in part, by a grant by the Boston Cultural Council. Programming is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, an agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Musicians of the Old Post Road takes its name from its acclaimed concert series that brings period instrument performances of music of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to beautiful historic buildings along New England’s fabled Old Post Road, the first thoroughfare to connect Boston and New York City in the late 17th century. Winner of the 1998 Noah Greenberg Award from the American Musicological Society, Musicians of the Old Post Road has also received programming awards from Chamber Music America and the US-Mexico Fund for Culture. The ensemble has toured in Germany, Austria, and Mexico, and has appeared at festivals and on concert series in the US, including the Indianapolis Early Music Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival Concert Series, the Castle Hill Festival, the Artists Series at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and the Connecticut Early Music Festival. The ensemble has held a residency at Dartmouth College and was featured on WCVB television’s “Chronicle” program and 99.5 All Classical radio’s “Live from Fraser” program.

The ensemble’s discography includes seven recordings that have each been praised in the US and abroad. They include: The Virtuoso Double Bass (Titanic, 1994), Trios and Scottish Song Settings of J. N. Hummel (Meridian, 1999), Galant with an Attitude: Music of Juan and José Pla (Meridian, 2000), Quartets of Telemann and Bodinus (Meridian, 2004), Feliz Navidad: Christmas from Spain and New Spain (Meridian, 2008), and Roman Handel (Centaur, 2013). The ensemble’s 7th CD, Earthly Baroque, was released by Centaur in 2017.

For more information, visit https://oldpostroad.org, email musicians@oldpostroad.org,

or call 781-466-6694.

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