Here is a splendidly sonorous and sensitively performed CD of
five sacred cantatas by the extremely prolific Telemann. Amongst
the musical attributes which the composer describes in his application
in 1712 for the post of Kapellmeister at Frankfurt is his own
singing voice…"zwischen Tenor und Baß" (between
tenor and bass) - or baritone. Taken together with at least one
letter to city authorities complaining that because of an absence
of singers, Telemann had to 'hire [him]self', it seems likely
that he wrote this music at least partly with himself in mind.
Indeed, an unusually large proportion of the 1,400 cantatas which
Telemann wrote did include a part for such a voice (range, timbre
and delivery style, as far as we can tell) as Telemann's.
is resting on Klaus Mertens shoulders in these performances,
then. He has worked, of course, with many 'early music' specialists…Ton
Koopman (the staple baritone on the latter's superb Bach cantata
series) and Frans Brüggen, Nicholas McGegan, Philippe Herreweghe,
René Jacobs, Sigiswald Kuijken, Gustav Leonhardt and Nikolaus
Here he is in fine form. His voice has a solidity
and generosity slightly redolent of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's.
This results in an authority in the way that each piece is structured
and articulated. Listen, for example, to the opening of 'Mein
liebster Heiland' [tr.15] in Jesus liegt in letzten Zügen
Absent are any notions of rushing, self-indulgent pondering,
speculating, wavering - uncertainties about the place of the
words in the context of the cantata itself, and its meaning within
the wider liturgical milieu. But equally important is the complete
absence in Mertens' approach of woodenness, rigidity or inflexibility.
Particularly impressive is the extent to which Martens infuses
his solos with such drama… Telemann, after all, was
also an opera composer. But the drama here is only that inherent
in the Passion itself; the Passion is never 'used' as a vehicle
for other ideas.
His is a singing style that inspires confidence
while knowing that we are also hearing singing full of the Affekt
was so important to Baroque composers. We are moved, emotionally
compelled and taken with the sentiment of the music, which is,
after all, concerned with Christ's death. But our feelings change
in accordance with the bar to bar, almost - certainly phrase
to phrase - alternations of circumstance …regret, hope,
anger, resignation as the Passion story is told. Mertens avoids
any hint of perfunctoriness. Despite the fact that the story
is so familiar and the resonances or sympathies which Telemann
intended to evoke so huge, Mertens sets them out with an attention
and freshness that are somehow very genuine and trusted. His
exposition of the opening first number, 'Ich will den Kreuzweg
gerne gehen' [tr.18], in Ich will den Kreuzweg gerne gehen
is poignant in the extreme. But because Mertens sings from within
the circumstances of this affirmation - not just because we know
what poignancy means.
The Accademia Daniel under Shalev Ad-El
play their period instruments with support where that is all
that Martens needs and with vigour and spirit in passages requiring
greater presence. The tendency, given the theme, is for sombre
and melancholy. Yet nowhere is the playing lugubrious or maudlin.
A wonderful balance, which would seem to come from great familiarity
with the music. The scoring is necessarily spare and understated.
At most Accademia Daniel comprises a dozen players. But their
sound is focused, tender and expressive. Such numbers as 'Wie
der Blumen' [tr.25] in Ach Herr! Lehr uns Bedenken wohl
the touching and very real empathy between Martens and the Accademia.
liner notes have an interesting set of essays on the music's
background, artists' biographies and texts in German and English.
The recording is warm and the acoustic appropriately gentle.
This is music that must be listened to closely, not overheard.
If that's how you approach it, you'll be amply repaid. No other
available recordings of these works exists. If they did, they'd
have to have some pretty strong performances to have the advantage
over this energetic yet unselfconscious and beautiful cpo release.