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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Pastorelle en Musiqueopera/serenata (c.1712-21)
Caliste – Doerthe Maria Sandmann (soprano)
Iris – Barbara Fink (mezzo)
Damon – Mathias Hausmann (tenor)
Amyntas – Lydia Vierlinger (alto)
Knirfx – Bernhard Berchtold (tenor)
Capella Leopoldina/Kirill Karabits
Recorded in concert, May 2005
CAPRICCIO 71 054/55 [62.48 + 43.01]

Telemann’s Pastorelle en Musique belongs to the sub-genre of the Shepherd Play, a kind of Arcadian serenade. It consists of twelve scenes provisionally dated, on stylistic and other grounds, to his Frankfurt years between 1712 and 1721. It was probably scenic and celebratory in nature though the description of "opera" has been appended to it over the years. Whilst it’s not operatic it certainly does contain elements of the set-piece operatic aria. There are opportunities for five solo singers and two choirs (shepherds and shepherdesses). Instrumentally we find that Telemann employs, in addition to a full complement of strings (and gamba), two trumpets, horns and two oboes.

It’s to the conductor of this recording Kirill Karabits that we owe the rediscovery of this diverting pastoral-cum-serenade, which he first saw in a music library in Kiev in 2001. He arranged for the score to be examined in Germany and its confirmation as a previously unknown work by Telemann was followed by the difficult business of arranging a performing edition.

It’s in some ways a strangely constructed work since Telemann adopted the prevailing custom of the mixed style and of a multiple language libretto: German and French. It was often the case that in a work of this kind the recitative was written in German and the arias in French but Telemann ploughs his own furrow and exercises flexibility and freedom in language selection, not least when it comes to the choruses.

Whether it’s a Serenata, serenade or quasi-opera Telemann writes a score of delicious invention, lyric impress and consistency. Fortunately the ensemble has a firm and learned lead from conductor Karabits who relishes every twist and turn and demonstrates a splendid sense of rhythmic drive into the bargain. He has a good cast – I suppose that Barbara Fink’s is the best-known name – and one moreover that is consistent throughout, though obviously some voices are more adaptable than others.

In the Concerto opening Telemann demonstrates – try from 5.20 onwards – his own very special brand of nobility, one that one would most readily attribute to Handel, but that the older composer also possessed. His recitatives are studded with imaginative touches, such as the leaps in No.3 (O zuckersüsse Lust) and he enlivens the récit-aria schema with choruses and ensembles. The Terzet (No.7) is especially pleasing in that respect, exciting, colourful, rhythmically propulsive, with excellent work from the orchestra’s lower strings and an elastic sense of melody, much to the work’s advantage.

The arias are intelligently taken. Finck is impressive as Iris whilst Doerthe Maria Sandmann’s Caliste can sound a touch pinched, as she does in her No.8a recitative where her partner Mathias Hausmann is appealingly bluff, if not ideally clarion.

Telemann laced the score with elements of rusticity and you will enjoy the warmness of the slightly angular and short aria Il n’est point de bergère, nicely done by Lydia Vierlinger and accompanied by a delicious drone. Throughout in fact we can admire the oboe and bassoon playing, the mellow cello line – all audible in Dir ahnet (No. 25) – and the light and airy flute playing. The choral benediction of the chorus Dormez beaux yeux adds its own plangency. It’s only in a duet such as No. 33 Wir sind vergnügt that the work comes close to a Handelian operatic impulse and dynamism but elsewhere the temperature is deliberately lowered, though still warm enough for solos and choruses to register with boldness and vivacity.

This is a most worthwhile discovery and presented with admirable documentary thoroughness. Realised live – you wouldn’t know it for most of the time – it communicates with real élan and scholarly intelligence, though it has to be said pragmatic instinct. The score is full of splendid touches, bubbling winds and warm strings, brass firepower reserved for necessary moments. The singers are consistent and have fine arias to work with, such as to banish worries about the rather inert plot. Texts are provided and the notes are ambitiously thorough. This is one of the best Capriccio releases I’ve reviewed and reflects well on all concerned, not least the inspiring Karabits.

Jonathan Woolf



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