Friedrich der Grosse: Music for the Berlin Court, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
(released on March 13, 2012)
HMC 902132 | 73'58"
Alpermann plays the solo of a harpsichord concerto by Christoph Nichelmann (1717-1762), somewhat incongruously but beautifully, on (the same?) fortepiano. It is a fine, fleet performance, led with alacrity by violinist Stephen Mai, with fluttery cadenzas. Two pieces by the prolific Johann Gottlieb Graun (1703-1771) are featured, starting with a brilliant, full-blooded ouverture (D minor, GraunWV A:XI:2), showcasing the ensemble's excellent woodwinds. Jan Freiheit takes the solo in Graun's viola da gamba concerto (A minor, GraunWV A:XIII:14) -- the program's most substantial piece of music, centered on this instrument already regarded as antiquarian -- with results that are gutsy but not as polished as could be (matching our impressions of when we heard him play as cello soloist with Concerto Köln at the Library of Congress this past spring). Perhaps the most famous composer at the Berlin court (the only major name left off this disc is Franz Benda), C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788), concludes this diverting disc, with the first of the Wq. 183 sinfonies, actually composed after he had left Berlin. The C.P.E. Bach symphonies are always enigmatic and opinion-altering pieces, certainly the case here right from the start, with the syncopated, repeated-note main theme of the first movement. (For another interesting perspective on this recording, see the comments on the album by Erik Dorset, one of the ensemble's violinists.)