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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Drei sind, die da zuegen im Himmel, TVWV 1:462 (1711) [12:09]*
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, TVWV 1:843 (1717) [12:10]*
Wie liegt die Stadt so wüste, TVWV 1:1629 (1727) [14:27]*
Er kam, lobsingt ihm, TVWV 1:462 (1759) [15:05]**
Rheinische Kantorei; Das Kleine Konzert (Veronika Winter (soprano)*; Lena Susanne Norin (alto)*; Jan Kobow (tenor)*; Ekkehard Abele (bass)*; Ingrid Schmithüsen (soprano)**; Claudia Schubert (alto)**; Howard Crook (tenor) **; Gotthold Schwarz (bass)**)/Hermann Max
rec. Magdeburg, Germany, 18 March, 2006, DDD*; 25-29 April, 1997. DDD**
CPO 777 195-2 [57:08]

This is beautiful music beautifully played. A concentrated and penetrating collection of German cantatas from the high Baroque, it should be snapped up without reservation by anyone with even the slightest interest in the origins and development of northern European sacred music. The playing, direction and singing are uniformly clear, vibrant, balanced and highly communicative.
In 1710/11 Telemann performed at the Eisenach court what was his first annual cycle of compositions for each Sunday and feast day in the church year, the Geistliches Singen und Spielen – to texts by Erdmann Neumeister. From this Drei sind, die da zuegen im Himmel treats the belief in the triune nature of God making full use of musically dramatic three-fold polyphonic textures and drawing on solo singing executed admirably by Norin, Kobow and Abele. The strings play particularly richly throughout this cantata and enhance the mellowness and barely suppressed emotional charge.
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis for the second Sunday in Lent is from Telemann’s third cycle of six years later. Again Telemann explores contrast – this time the contrasting emotions of sorrow and consolation, as Jesus heals a girl possessed by the devil. The music moves dynamically in step with the resolution of the Biblical story. Dissonance and unison in solo recitative and choral parts are used to convey this progression. But the technique is also that of the newly emerging concerto style. For excellence in restrained expressiveness, listen to Lena Susanne Norin’s bell-like articulation and phrasing with a dignity and weight appropriate to the Bach cantatas.
Wie liegt die Stadt so wüste is to be heard on the tenth Sunday after Trinity. It too has a dramatic tone – the destruction of Jerusalem for the city’s refusal to understand how peace is achieved and kept. Again, sadness predominates. Telemann’s command of sombreness without maudlin is superb here – and Max’s forces paint the shadows and frowns with exactly the right strokes. It’s not tone painting; but there is certainly tonal and rhythmic depth.
Er kam, lobsingt ihm is the longest cantata on this superb collection. It was also recorded almost ten years earlier and employs different soloists. It’s a setting of an ode for the Ascension by Daniel Schiebeler (who also provided words for works of C.P.E. Bach), written when the poet was still under twenty years old – not, somehow, how we typically expect that austere, ‘serious’ and doctrinally staid texts come about. But then Er kam, lobsingt ihm is far from dry. Its sublime depiction of the elevated theme is treated with matching exuberance by Telemann. He asserts the primacy of the words in good Protestant fashion… the orchestra is made to sing, and supports with the vocal texture in an almost experimental way; the result is an exhilarating gem indeed.
By the time you reach this cantata on the disc, you’ll likely be wishing the selection chosen were not so … select. The appeal and commitment which pervade Telemann’s cantatas are so sensitively and subtly conveyed by Max and his players that they do leave you wanting more. There is a rigorous stylishness to the playing which nevertheless carries both movement and excitement verging on passion in places – the right places.
The recording is clear, crisp and resonant, although a little ungenerous at a few minutes short of an hour. The liner notes – if in font that’s a little small and hard to read – are comprehensive and informative. The texts are reproduced in full with English translations; there are brief sketches (together with one or two somewhat unflattering photographs) of the performers. The impression with which one comes away time and again after listening to these very human and approachable sonatas is of unpretentious, expert playing designed to present a definitely under-appreciated aspect of Telemann’s work for what it is – varied, inventive, unhistrionic yet colourful. This is a CD to treasure.
Mark Sealey


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