Telemann: Festive Cantatas (TWV 1:1061, 1:1593, 1:320). Cond. Ulrich Stötzel. Hänssler Classic 98.179 (1997) and reissues

Telemann: Festliche Kantaten / Festive Cantatas (TWV 1:1061, 1:1593, 1:320). Dorothee Fries, Mechthild Georg, Andreas Post, Albrecht Pöhl, Collegium vocale des Bach-Chores Siegen, Hannoversche Hofkapelle, Trompeten-Consort Friedemann Immer, Ulrich Stötzel Hänssler Classic 98.179 (1997) 4010276008484

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

Recorded 25/26 August 1997, Martinikirche, Siegen

More splendid cantatas by Telemann
10 May 2024

As an introduction to this review, allow me to quote what I wrote yesterday in my review of another installment in the series of recordings made from the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s by Ulrich Stötzel and his forces from Hannover for Hänssler (link will open a new tab), and later collated in an 8-CD set (7 of which being those recordings), which is how I have it:

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 –, including more than 1,700 reported cantatas, 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 these three cantatas are another case in point.

TWV 1:1061 and 320, which frame this program, are magnificent, triumphant, celebratory and brassy in the manner, say, of Charpentier’s Te Deum, both in their choral introductions (tracks 1 – with solo bass joining midway through – and 17), arias (3, 17, 21) and duets (19 tenor bass, a wonderful “Allelujah” in praise of Jesus, with a superb middle section in syncopation), sometimes dreamy and poetic (track 5 for soprano, in which Jesus… “neither sleeps nor slumbers”) or solemn and declamatory (7 for bass). The middle section of the soprano Aria track 21 features an irresistible (and much too short) staccato vocalise on the first e of “schrecken” (fear), and track 23 is in the form of another dreamy and beautiful duet oboe & alto (“sweetly and gently I go to sleep”), with an animated middle section with trumpets (“Death cannot kill”). The central 1:1593 is more lyrical (and does without brass – but oboes are put to concertante and somewhat martial use in track 12, a bass aria), with a superb concluding trio (soprano alto tenor, playing by ear) and fugal chorus.

You’ve got to get through the recits, underpinned by bare organ, but they are no more boring than Bach’s (if you find Bach’s boring). TWV 1593 is also original in that it substitutes two Chorales to the expected recitatives.

I have no comparison to assess the value of Hänssler’s performances but they seem perfectly satisfactory, except perhaps for tenor Andreas Post, who has the required highs but an uningratiating, extra-light and pinched tone. Not enough to hamper enjoyment.

Those were World Premiere recordings and, except for 1593 (found on a 2-CD set from Cpo released in 2022, Complete Cantatas vol. 2, 1714/15, barcode 761203543724), they haven’t been re-recorded in the quarter-of-century since. Limited availability of scores may partly be an explanation – they are published by the Telemann-Centre in Magdeburg (link will open new tab) and only for hire, apparently – but Telemann’s sheer abundance may be another factor: with more than 1,700 cantatas, where does one start?

TT 55:54. The 2017 Compilation by Hänssler may be a convenient introduction to a number of cantatas and choral works, but be aware that they come with no liner notes and lyrics, and sometimes even deficient artists’ credits and  faulty or missing credits of the pieces recorded in Telemann’s catalog. So it is for listeners who care only about the music, not the meaning, the history, the context. I’ve enjoyed these three cantatas enough to warrant purchasing the original CD.

 

 

Comments are welcome