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The Consort

Robin Stowell

Volume 66, Summer 2010

Christian Ernst Graaf
Duo Economique
for 1 violin, 2 players, op.27
Edition HH, HH243, Bicester 2009
(pbk 7.95)
ISMN 979 0708059 93 6

Christian Ernst Graaf (1723-1804) was based initially at the court in his native Rudolstadt before settling in the Netherlands and serving for much of his career as director of music and Kapellmeister at the Dutch court in The Hague. His works are wide-ranging and include symphonies, chamber music, a treatise on thoroughbass, and much vocal music, including an oratorio written in celebration of the peace between England and France in 1802.

Graaf's Duo Economique for two players, two hands, two bows and one violin is a novelty piece which, as Christopher Hogwood points out, has precedents in works such as John Dowland's My Lord Chamberlaine his galliard (for two players on one lute, 1597), Tobias Hume's Lesson for Two to Play upone one Viole (1603) and Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach's Das Dreyblat (for one piano, six hands). Whether or not Graaf was aware of these precedents is anyone's guess; however, the idea of various combinations of executants playing on one instrument, like the challenge of cramming as many bodies as possible into a Mini Cooper, has often been taken up in modern times, as proved by many a recorded performance accessible on YouTube.

Common to all the above works and challenges is a somewhat intimate manner of execution. In the case of Graaf's Duo, the first violinist, probably seated, plays in 3rd position (or above) largely on the upper two strings and bows near the bridge, while the second violinist stands behind, plays in 1st position largely on the lower two strings and bows nearer the fingerboard. The first violinist naturally has the melodic interest almost throughout; unsurprisingly, performing the work can be great fun as well as enormously frustrating!

The Duo's overall structure may also be described as economical. In two movements, it comprises a sonata-form Allegro and an A-B-A-C (minor)-A rondo. Based on a publication by the firm of Hummel (Berlin, c1790), Hogwood's unfussy edition has all the requisite scholarly qualities, including an informative introduction (in English and German), relevant textual notes and a brief critical commentary. It includes a facsimile of the parts, clearly reproduced and sporting one original fingering in the first violin part, and an edited version of the text in score format. Editorial modifications are limited largely to minor engraving errors and inconsistencies (notably of articulation marks), misplaced information and the very occasional incorrect note.

This work offers a tempting 'two for one' deal for the current economic recession and is just the kind of repertoire with which a student of intermediate level can experiment in the company of a very close friend. Indeed, this Duo Economique could soon develop into a Duo Romantique!

We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.

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