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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Heilig, heilig, heilig ist Gott - Oratorio (1747)
Monika Mauch, soprano
Ralf Popken, altus
Andreas Post, tenor
Albrecht Pöhl, bass
Hanoversche Hofkapelle
Trompeten Consort Friedemann Immer
Collegium vocale Siegen/Ulrich Stötzel
rec. 21-22 October 2004, Martinikirche, Siegen, Germany.
HÄNSSLER CD-98489[77:49]

Between 1738 and 1762, Telemann was often commissioned to compose ceremonial music for newly built churches in and around Hamburg. This is one such piece, written for the 1747 consecration of the Church of the Holy Trinity in St. Georg, which although now is a part of Hamburg proper, in Telemann’s day lay outside the city gates. At the time, the church was considered one of the most beautiful baroque churches in all of the city, but it was alas destroyed in the Second World War. Scored for large orchestra and chorus and soloists, the libretto was written by Heinrich Gottlob Schellhaffer (1707-57), who was a professor at the Hamburg Gymnasium. Given the church’s moniker, the music is filled with Trinitarian symbolism both in its texts and in its musical structure.

Telemann was one of history’s most prolific composers, his works numbering in the thousands; much of it still lies unrecorded and unexplored. Given the generally high quality of his output, we can be grateful for this recording, especially given the large-scale nature of the work. It is a welcome addition to the known repertoire, and one can hope that an occasional live performance will come from this recording.

There is much to be praised here in this the work’s world premiere recording. The orchestra plays with taut rhythmic elegance, and the balance between chorus and orchestra is good, with the texts on the whole understandable and clear. Ulrich Stötzel has a fine command of the style and keeps the music moving at a goodly pace.

The soloists are on the whole fine with one very notable exception in the person of counter-tenor Ralf Popken. When God, oh when, will we get beyond this overwhelming need to use male altos, like this poor fellow, who to my taste produce unbearably ugly and unrefined sounds. We do not have any authentic castrati any more (Thanks be to God) and falsettists on the whole simply don’t cut it. This example is one of the most egregious that I have heard in years.

Tenor Andreas Post and soprano Monika Mauch sing with particularly sweet and mellifluous tones. Bass Albrecht Pöhl is possessed of a fine instrument, but it is heard best in the more lyrical less active passages. When he sings coloratura he tends to over sing, and the tone goes from rich and clear to muddled and bark-ish.

Otherwise, this is a fine performance and there is much lovely music to discover here. Since this is the only recording of the work available, there’s not much of a choice but to buy it if you are interested in the music. Hänssler’s production values both in quality of recorded sound and fine commentary in the program book, are of the highest and most professional order. This label, along with its sister company Profil have given us quite a number of outstanding performances, and it is also nice to see someone other than the ubiquitous (albeit brilliant) Helmuth Rilling at the helm.

I hope that someone along the lines of Philippe Herreweghe or Ton Koopman get hold of this score and give it a second reading for comparison. We could be assured of higher quality soloists at any rate.

Recommended with the above mentioned caveat being a real potential deterrent.

Kevin Sutton



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