Telemann: Die Tageszeiten, Daran ist erschienen die Liebe Gottes (cantatas). Rheinische Kantorei, Das kleine Konzert, Hermann Max. Capriccio 10 319 (1991)

Telemann: Die Tageszeiten TWV 20:39, Daran ist erschienen die Liebe Gottes TWV 1:165. Rheinische Kantorei, Das kleine Konzert, Hermann Max. Capriccio 10 319 (1991) barcode 4006408103196

Soloists
Tageszeiten : Barbara Schlick, David Cordier, Christoph Pregardien, Stephen Varcoe
Daran ist erschienen: Barbara Schlick, Hilke Helling, Hein Meens, Harry van der Kamp

 

Recorded 15-26 April 1989 (Tageszeiten) and 19-30 April 1988 (Daran ist erschienen) at the Immanuelskirche, Wupperetal-Barmen, Germany

Two lovely Telemann cantatas, and Tageszeiten quite original in conception
2 June 2024

Although Capriccio regrettably doesn’t provide the work’s number in the composer’s TWV catalog, Telemann’s “Die Tageszeiten” is TWV 20:39, figure 20 meaning that it belongs to the composer’s Secular Cantatas (see the invaluable Telemann complete catalog maintained by the Canadian musiqueorguequebec – in French only. Link will open a new tab).

It is quite original in conception, one large cantata made of four short ones, depicting the four moments of the day: Morning, Noon, Evening, Night. A number of composers have written “Seasons” – and not just Vivaldi, Haydn and Tchaikovsky (and here’s a short introduction) – but, other than Haydn’s Symphonies Nos. 6 to 8, I am hard-pressed to come up with many who wrote Moments, or Hours of the Day. But the originality of Telemann’s conception doesn’t end there.

The four cantatas are written respectively for soprano, alto, tenor and bass, and each with its own characteristic accompagnato instrument: trumpet, viola da gamba, two flutes, two oboes and bassoon. Formally, they are constructed in a fairly traditional manner for Telemann: two arias separated by a recitative, and a concluding chorus (some wonderfully uplifting, as track 9 – fittingly, on the words “exultant chorus” –, or 13 “May thy songs of praise resound, O Lord”, and with the last one suitably triumphant, “The Lord is God, a God of honour, a God of power”). To mark that the composition is not four separate cantatas but a single one in four parts, there is one introductive instrumental sinfonia to the whole.

I can’t describe in detail all the beauties offered by the music, but, by way of example, the Morning cantata begins with a lively soprano aria with elaborate coloratura celebrating the awakening of morning (track 2), and the same liveliness characterizes the middle section of her second Aria (track 4, on the word “Exult”). As intimated, Telemann’s word setting is always, timbrally and melodically, carefully and poetically responsive to the meaning conveyed by the text – witness again the two tenor arias in the Evening cantata (tracks 10 and 12) with their pastoral and dreamy flutes accompagnying the words “gently come down, sweet evening” and “come sweet sleep, The heavy eyelids drop…”, or the baritone’s vocalise on the vowel of “gläntzt” (shines) (track 16 at 1:27). Fugues in choruses are oftentimes a purely “formal” affair, where the composers conveys… that he can write a fugue. But the concluding triumphant chorus already mentioned above (concluding both the Night Cantata, and the complete work) has a fugue on the words “the cirle of the earth must hear it / Each day must tell it to the next day / And each night to the next night”. What could be best suited to this notion of day and night passing on to the next one the praise of God, than a fugue, and what words could be better-suited to a fugue than those?

Even the recitatives are original in their shaping of recitativo accompanato, almost an arioso in track 3, or again the middle section of track 7, a graphic description in music of “the rushing brook runs murmuring to the valley” – very evocative of Vivaldi’s compositional processes in The Four Seasons.

Telemann’s cantatas are rare on disc and, when recorded, rarely re-recorded. In my other Telemann reviews I’ve contented that this relative neglect (and certainly in view of the zillion of duplicating recordings afforded to the “Holy Trinity” of Baroque music, Bach-Handel-Vivaldi) was not caused by any inferior quality of the music, but, possibly, by the sheer abundance of Telemann’s output. If you think that Bach’s circa 200 extant cantatas, three Masses and two Passions are a lot, how would you describe Telemann’s more than 1,700 Church Cantatas? – and those are only TWV I in the composer’s catalog, I’m leaving aside the many Passions, occasional cantatas and oratorios that are covered by TWV 2 to 24… There’s so much that is still untapped, what would be the incentive to re-recording?

But Tageszeiten is in fact one of the most-represented on disc, having been granted a recording as early as the early 1960s under the baton of Helmut Koch  (link to entry on Discogs.com), another one on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi conducted in 1987 by Wolfgang Schäfer (European edition RD77092 barcode 0035627709227, North-American edition 77092-2-RC, bc 054727709227),  and one by Fritz Näf from 2009 on Carus 83.439.

I have none of those for comparison yet although the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi will soon enter my collection, and when it does I’ll return to this review, but in the meanwhile I am generally satisfied by this version of Hermann Max, who’s devoted a number of recordings to the music of Telemann. I would have preferred a female alto to countertenor David Cordier, not only because of his  somewhat acid timbre, but also for reasons of equilibrium: it would have seem fitting to have two female and two male singers. Note also that da capos, though announced in the libretto, are not always performed (they are omitted on tracks 2, 4, 16). The CD already times 70 minutes as it is, so I suspect that is the reason of such omissions.

Such generous timing is to be thanked on the additional Church Cantata “Daran is erschienen die Liebe Gottes”, which is (Capriccio doesn’t say) TWV 1:165, and early piece of the composer, from 1711, before he was appointed to Hamburg. It too has been re-recorded – by Ulrich Stötzel on Hänssler Classic 98.624, in 2010 – one of the CDs in Hänssler/Stötzel’s series that sent me back to Telemann. The cantata is another beauty, very much in the mood of Tageszeiten’s Evening Cantata, witth bucolic recorder, alternately gamboling and dreamy/meditative, in addition to two oboes. Construction is typical of Telemann’s Church cantatas, introductory and concluding chorus framing two arias and a recitative – except that here, the second aria is a duet of tenor and soprano – and, really, a trio, if you account for the recorder.

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, 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.

The other cantatas on the Hänssler disc are equally fine, and in a very different character, more festive and brassy. No one should hesitate to have two recordings in their music library, especially if they have zillions of the Choral/Sacred works of the Holy Trinity.

 

Comments are welcome