A Telemann Passion – and a lot of recitatives

Completing my reviews of the Cantatas, Oratorios and Passions from Hänssler Classic, recorded by conductor Ulrich Stötzel from 1994 to 2015, I end with the beginning, with the 1994 recording of Telemann’s 1746 Matthew Passion, on Hänssler Classic CD 98.960 – one among over 52 passions and passion-oratorios that he composed.

I’m not as enthusiastic as with the other works recorded by Stötzel. Certainly, the Passion offers eight arias that are as fine as any written by Telemann, but they are like the pearl that you can access only by wringing the shell open – more than half of the Passion is made of long recitatives sometimes giving way to short ariosos, and short choruses, sometimes in the form of simple chorales, and even when better integrated in the dramatic unfolding of the piece, lacking heft and power to really evoke the often violent action they are supposed to depict. The Passion sounds a little too much like some kind of “sprechgesang” theatre play for full musical enjoyment, I find, a kind of revival of Monteverdi’s “parlar cantando” concept of opera.

For the links to the reviews of the other installment in the series, see my review of the 2017 compilation.

Comments are welcome