Telemann: Cantata TWV 14:12 for the Conclusion of Peace 1763. Cond. Ulrich Stötzel. Hänssler Classic CD 98.333 (2000) and reissues

Telemann: Cantata TWV 14:12 for the Conclusion of Peace 1763  “Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille”. Konstanze Maxsein (soprano), Dagmar Linde (alto), Max Ciolek (tenor), Achim Rück (bass), Raimund Nolte (bass), Trompeten-Consort Friedemann Immer, Collegium Vocale des Bach-Chores Siegen, Hannoversche Hofkapelle, Ulrich Stötzel. Hänssler Classic CD 98.333 (2000) barcode 4010276009801

 

 

Compiled in 3 CDs Brilliant Classics 99996 (2002) barcode 5028421999968:

 

 

Compiled in Hänssler Classic 8 CD PH17015 (2017) 881488170146:

 

Recorded 22 August 1999 in the basilica of Eberbach Abbey, Rheingau Music Festival

A great neglected work by Telemann
9 May 2024

I feel that the popularity and posthumous fame of the “Holy Trinity” of the Baroque era, Bach Handel Vivaldi, has done great disservice to Telemann. But Telemann’s own and singular prolificity is also to blame. With a composer whose catalog numbers some 3000 works – even taking in account that half are lost –, how can you even start to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the exceptional from the run-of-the-mill? And the suspicion will always hover over Telemann’s output that quantity forbids quality. Compared to Telemann’s reported 1043 sacred cantatas… and 46 settings of The Passion (!!!), Bach had the good sense to compose only 300 cantatas (of which circa 200 are extant today), five masses and five Passions (and only two have reached us extant), and Handel 42 operas and 29 oratorios. Even Vivaldi’s infamous “500 times the same Concerto” – an ignorant and unfair quip! – pale in comparison to Telemann’s 600 overture-suites and (only?) 50 concertos…

Not all the music of Telemann I listen to strikes me as exceptional – but it often does, and this Cantata TWV 14:12 is a good case in point. About history and context of the composition I’m going out on a limb, as I have the work in the 8-CD Hänssler compilation of 2017, which leaves out all liner notes. The Cantata bears the subtitle “zum Friedenschluss 1763” – for the conclusion of Peace 1763 – and if you look up what peace was concluded in 1763, that would be the Seven-Year War’s by the Treaty of Paris (see the entry on Wikipedia – link will open a new tab). Yet, in Telemann’s TWV catalog, it is included not in the Secular Cantatas (those are TWV 20) or the Works for Political Celebrations (TWV 13), but in the compositions written for the schools of Hamburg and Altona – indeed the Cantata was written for Hamburg’s Johanneum (Academic Grammar School), where he was serving as Kantor / music director.

Despite its “occasional” circumstances, it is a magnificent work, lavishly scored (2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, bassoon, 2 trumpets (clarions), 2 horns, timpani and strings), with great arias and duets (and a few fine choruses), some dynamic and triumphant (brass and timpani), some more pastoral (flutes), always imaginative, never run-of-the-mill. Recitatives do tend to go on and on – you are never allowed to forget that you are being preached the virtues of peace and the greatness of God from the pulpit – but the (anonymous) text has the interest of providing very graphic descriptions of the destructions of war and of daily life in (miraculously – or rather: by God’s benevolence – spared) Hamburg. Possibly, the harmonic, rhythmic and melodic shape of the arias doesn’t show as much unmistakable individuality as in Bach’s or Handel’s or Vivaldi’s works. Heard “blind”, I’m not sure I could pinpoint that it was a work of Telemann, rather than of any great but considered “second-tier” composer of the Baroque era – Zelenka, for instance, a composer I’ve often raved about. That lack of an unmistakable individually doesn’t make the Cantata less enjoyable though. I can easily exchange that piece and recording against a handful of Bach cantatas – and fortunately, I don’t need to choose.

TT 53 minutes. This was an important premiere recording, and so far as I could establish it is still today, a quarter of century later, the only recording. No comparison then to assess quality of the interpretation, but Stötzel and forces’ traversal seems perfectly fine to me. I do wish René Jacobs or the likes had tackled it though, for a second view. As I mentioned, the CD was reissued with other recordings by the same forces and from the same label, and a few conducted by Jacobs (originally on the label Capriccio). Convenient, but no liner notes, no texts, and some errors and lapses in the artists’ credits (soprano Konstanze Maxsein is omitted, for instance) and faulty or missing credits of the pieces recorded in Telemann’s TWV catalog. The set is for listeners interested only in the music, not in the history and context and even meaning. Fans and collectors of Telemann may be redirected to the original issue, the composition is worth it. I’ve just received it for my own collection: full liner notes and texts provided.

 

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