CHRISTOPH SCHAFFRATH: Overture in A Major for string and continuo; Flute Concerto in E Minor for transverse flute, strings and continuo; Symphony No. XIII in G minor for strings and continuo; Harpsichord Concerto in E Flat Major for harpsichord solo & strings; Overture in A minor for strings and continuo – Konrad Hünteler, transverse flute/ Armin Thalheim, harpsichord and continuo/ Howard Arman, basso continuo/ HandelFestspiel Orchestra of the Halle Opera House/Howard Arman – NCA multichannel SACD 60187, 65:17 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Another obscure composer unearthed by European musicologists, and in this case most listenable – especially in these first-rate performances in top flight hi-res surround. Christoph Schaffrath was harpsichordist and composer to Frederick II and also played in the Dresden Court Kapelle (orchestra). At one of his castles, the crown prince constructed a special pavillion dedicated to the pursuits of reading, music and dining. (Sounds like just the place to be for a musician at the time.) In addition to being virtuosos on their own instruments, the musicians of the court Kapelle experimented with new playing techniques and expression that led them away from the standard compositional methods of the baroque period, and presaged the later Mannheim School.
The Harpsichord Concerto struck me as one of the most attractive works on the disc. It is just one of 40 harpsichord concertos written by Schaffrath, of which only 17 have survived. The three-movement work features a great deal of artful ornamentation in the solo part, and its closing Allegro is highly virtuosic. The Flute Concerto is the only known one by Schffrath. It was probably written to fit in with the new popularity of the flute at that time, due to the king playing the instrument. It has light and airy feeling, with some fine melodies.
The Overture which opens the disc is in the spirit of the baroque French overture and its second movement is a dance-like Allegro. The overture which closes out the disc has Italian influences mixed with the French and variously mixes pre-classical elements with the “gallant” style and the Berlin School.
– John Sunier