To listen to the opening of Telemann's Die Tageszeiten (Times
of Day) is to be thrust into a world as apparently alien to its
times as that at the opening of Haydn's Seasons. Threatening,
full of unusual orchestral colour, the 'Symphony' - an overture
lasting longer - over seven minutes - than any other of the numbers
in the work - sets the scene (Dawn) for something you'd be hard
put to attribute to Telemann.
The sheer volume of his output (along with that of Liszt) is
often cited. Alongside this should go its variety. Admittedly
a late work (the first performance of Die Tageszeiten was
in 1757), it has passages which could certainly be taken for
Vivaldi, Mozart or even early Beethoven. Die Tageszeiten is
actually four solo cantatas with concluding choruses; each
is sung by a different voice… Morning soprano, Noon alto,
Evening tenor and Night bass. Similarly, each cantata has corresponding
orchestral colour… the addition of a trumpet, viola
da gamba, flutes and oboes and bassoon respectively.
None of this is in any way contrived, fey or self-conscious.
Such are Telemann's powers of capitalising on his inspiration
that the whole has a quality of inevitability. This is aided
by a length for each cantata (roughly ten minutes) that makes
it less like a tone poem; more compact and economical settings
- of nature poetry, by Brockes and Klopstock. The actual libretto
is by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachariae, 1726-1777. One feels that
Telemann is urging us to understand his reactions to the way
the sun progresses across the sky, rather than providing an
extra audience for the poetry. Näf is well in tune with
that approach. There is a withdrawn feel to the music-making.
is held back.
Nun danket alle Gott is a much earlier sacred work to
entirely Biblical texts (Ecclesiastics). Despite not drawing
on otherwise adapted verse, Telemann makes of this a special
work with its own character; indeed, each of the four movements
(two choral, a duet and an aria) has its own appeal and flavour.
Were the performers merely 'adequate' for the music, this would
be an intriguing release. But they have an attack, a briskness
and a sensitivity that add immense value to our appreciation
of these interesting works. Their tempi truly do support the
feeling of the passing day. And not in any gauche way. The
singers are fully conversant with the idiom in general, and
implementation in particular. Mammel's tenor should be singled
out as particularly persuasive. Though the other singers and
instrumentalists under Fritz Näf are entirely convincing
and offer much on repeated listening: they somehow confer a
naturalness and relaxed familiarity, without sacrificing any
of the novelty
(in the best sense of the word) of Telemann's insight into
how music, particularly voice and orchestra, can be made to
a defined, precise yet very open idea - something we all experience:
the passage of each day.
There is only one other recording in the current catalogue. And
it's of the Tageszeiten only, so is a shorter CD. It's
by soloists and the Freiburg Collegium Musicum under Wolfgang
Schäfer on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (77422). This excellently-recorded
and presented Carus release - which comes with useful notes
and the texts in German and English - is so lively, is the
of such a distinctive conception, and is bursting with sufficient
expressive force that it must take its place as a very welcome
addition - not only to the work of elevating Telemann's stature,
but also as providing a new, fresh and satisfying musical experience.