Telemann: Cantatas TWV 1:873, 1:642, 1:165. Cond. Ulrich Stötzel. Hänssler Classic 98.624 (2011) and reissue

Telemann: Cantatas TWV 1:873, 1:642, 1:165. Stefanie Wüst, Angela Froemer, Georg Poplutz, Jens Hamann, Collegium vocale Siegen, Hanoversche Hofkapelle, CUlrich Stötzel. Hänssler Classic 98.624 (2011) barcode 4010276023883



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


Recorded 10 July 2010, Martinikirche, Siegen, Germany


More beauties from Telemann
14 May 2024

What is it that makes Bach, Handel and Vivaldi be part of the venerated “Holy Tritiny” of  Baroque music – and not Telemann (whose inclusion would then turn it into a “Quadernity”)? It may be those composers’ very unique compositional twists – in rhythmic contour, harmonic and melodic invention, orchestral color – that make you recognize within seconds on “blind” listening that it’s them. Whichever beauties – and there are many – offered by Telemann’s cantatas and other vocal/choral works, I’m not sure that, on a blind hearing, I could pinpoint them to the composer, rather than to some of his then recognized and now more neglected contemporaries, Fux, Keiser, Zelenka, Heinichen, Hasse, Graupner, the Bach cousins and older sons, you name it.

And then, as I’ve contended in my earlier reviews of Hänssler’s Telemann sacred music cycle under the stewardship of Ulrich Stötzel (Hänssler Classic 98.047, 98.179 – links will open new tabs), Telemann’s relative neglect may also be due to the composer’s sheer and phenomenal abundance. With more than 3,000 compositions on his roster, including over 1,700 Cantatas (and that’s NOT counting the oratorios, passions and other vocal/choral works) and some 600 Overtures and Concertos, where do you begin exploring? And how does a composer of such abundance avoid repetition and, in the end, anonymity?

In my previous review of yet more Festive Cantatas (e.g., as it appears, with trumpets and timpani, on 98.047) from Stötzel, I started wondering if I hadn’t met the curve of diminishing returns. Not that the cantatas were significantly less beautiful than the previous ones I had reviewed. But they weren’t better either, and whatever their beauties, they seemed to just make more use of the same compositional processes, colors and twists, rather than renew them. But how inventive can you be in the course of 1,700 works in the same genre? Imagine 1,700 piano sonatas of Beethoven… symphonies of Haydn…

Well, I’m happy to report that, no, I’m not yet jaded with Telemann. Despite the claim of the (very scanty and often faulty) libretto of the 2017 Hänssler compilation (which is what I have), these were not billed in the original CD as “Festive” Cantatas – just “Cantatas”, which I take it to mean that they do without the exultant trumpets fanfares and timpani thwacks.

May be, but then they offer other ear-catching orchestral colors, in the form of concertante solo instruments. In TWV 1:873 (Telemann wrote seven cantatas on the same text, numbered TWV 1:873 to 879. The score to this one – not available on IMSLP – is published by Habsburger Verlag in Frankfurt)  they are two oboes, as well as prominent and florid solo cello in the choral/vocal opening (track 1), which I suppose is written out in the score rather than a conductorial decision with continuo. In fact, I find the choral introduction to 873 (with tenor and bass entering midway through in succession, tenor dialoguing with more florid solo violin figurations and baritone with more continuo, followed by chorus rising to great drama) very evocative of Bach.

Those cantatas are  all constructed of three arias interspersed with two recitatives, and framed by introductory and concluding choruses (each introductory chorus comes with a solo intervention, and the conclusion is always in the form of a short chorale). Arias offer many beauties, as in the tenor aria on track 2 (excellent Georg Poplutz) with prominent continuo and, if ear serves, oboe doubling and adding color to violins, in a way that, now, brought Handel to mind. Track 6, featuring soprano and concertante oboes, is heart-sinking (“my grave is a sweet bed to me”)– and in some more animated twists it in turn brings back memories of Rameau’s ballets. And Telemann manages as well to be more imaginative in his word-setting in the recitatives than in other cantatas of his I’ve heard. Likewise in the arias, coloratura and vocalise graphically follow (and convey) meaning.

Likewise, 1:165 (also published by Habsburger Verlag) features bucolic recorder, alternately gamboling (in the introductory chorus, track 14, where, if ear serves, soprano and alto sing a short line in unissono) and dreamy/meditative (track 16, tenor aria), in addition to the two oboes, dialoguing with more splendid violin figurations in track 18, another affecting soprano aria (a declaration of love to Jesus and revolt against Satan…). Track 20 with it’s “trio” of tenor, soprano and recorder is an exhilarating – and too short – ending before the final chorale, again eliciting faint memories of Handel and Rameau. That cantata is one of the rare ones in my Telemann collection to benefit an alternate recording – made in 1988, by Hermann Max and his Rheinische Kantorei on Capriccio 10 319 (1991). The two recordings offer complementary views, with Max generally more dynamic and assertive and Stötzel more dreamy and meditative. Max’s chorus also sounds leaner than Stötzel’s, with the benefit of more transparency, but his violins display more of the acidity so typical of early Period Instrument playing. In the extended basso recitative and arioso (track 17), Hänssler’s Jens Hamann is trimbrally more anonymous, almost tenor-like, than Capriccio’s Harry van der Kamp, but he delivers more drama in his shaping of the musical phrases. There is little to chose between sopranos  Stefanie Wüst (Hänssler) and Barbara Schlick (Capriccio) in their respective aria (track 18).

TWV 1:642 (published by the Magdeburg Telemann Center that also made available the scores to Hänssler’s previous installments) strays in various ways from the model of the two others. With its two trumpets it goes back in the direction of the “Festive” cantata, although it has no timpani and the trumpets, while bringing much spirited brilliance in the introductory chorus and the last soprano aria track 13 (where they seem to play antiphonically), aren’t used in a “fanfaresque” manner. The first aria of 1:642 (track 9) is also in the form of a celebratory soprano-tenor duet (“Sing the praise of God our King”), but rather than being followed by a recitative, it segues into two choral movements  (track 10), first meditative then celebratory and powerfully uplifting (“All stand”), with a short dialogue with soprano in in track 11.

At 49 minutes, TT is shorter than other installements from the series, but the three cantatas offer enough beauties that it doesn’t matter. As mentioned in my earlier reviews, the libretto of the 2017 compilation comes with very scanty and sometimes faulty information, and no texts. Bettter go to the original CD – I’ve just bought myself a copy. But be warned that, if original texts are provided, no translations are offered, contrary to the other installments in the series.

Comments are welcome