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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767) Kapitänsmusik 1738 (TWV 15,11) Oratorio (Wohl dem Volke) Serenata (Es locket die Trommel)
Veronika Winter (Hammonia, Der Schutzgeist Deutschlands), Cornelia Samuelis (Die Andacht, Der Friede) (soprano), Jan Kobow (Das Vertrauen, Die Elbe), Immo Schröder (Die Unachtsamkeit, Die Zaghaftigkeit) (tenor), Ekkehard Abele (Die Gerechtigkeit, Der Kriegsgeist), Gregor Finke (Die Wahrheit, Der Neid) (bass)
Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
rec. Live, 28-29 September 2007, Klosterbasilika, Knechtsteden, Germany. DDD
Texts and translations included
CPO 777 386-2 [67:30 + 60:48]
One of the many duties of Georg Philipp Telemann as Musikdirektor
in Hamburg was the composition of the Kapitänsmusik.
This was to be performed every year during the convivium,
the festive banquet of the sixty-seven members of the officer
corps of the civic guard. This event took place on the first
Thursday after St Bartholomew's Day (24 August). The Kapitänsmusik
consisted of two parts. It started with an oratorio which was
performed during the midday meal; the serenata was played in
the evening. Telemann composed 36 such works, of which only
nine have survived.
In the (sacred) oratorio the many blessings of Hamburg are spelled
out, mostly by a character called Hammonia (Hamburg).
She calls on the citizens to praise God for his blessings. Here
this is expressed, for instance, in a chorus of Hammonia with
her children: "Holy being, you source of good, blessing
and prosperity issue forth from you. You make sure that Hamburg's
wall forever stand. Take from us the thanks for this."
Various allegorical characters turn up which declare their bond
with the city: Die Andacht (Devotion), Die Gerechtigkeit
(Justice), Die Wahrheit (Truth) and Das Vertrauen
(Trust). As in most such pieces there is an opposing character:
Die Unachtsamkeit (Negligence). He acknowledges that
there is much to enjoy in Hamburg, but for him the blessings
are rather the earthly pleasures, like food and drink: "I
look forward to the oyster season". He doesn't want to
waste any time thinking about "the source of the blessing
and its surplus". The other characters react with abhorrence,
as Negligence "forgets that our God is the origin of good",
as Devotion says. Hammonia then says he should "avoid my
domain". The oratorio ends with the last stanza from the
hymn 'Herr Gott, wir danken dir' (Johann Franck, 1618-1677).
The serenata is quite dramatic. This is to be expected because
Telemann was a successful opera composer; from 1722 until its
closure in 1738 he was the director of the Oper am Gänsemarkt.
But this serenata is more dramatic than those in other Kapitänsmusiken
in that its central subject is war. There was a historical reason
for that. Hamburg was part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German
Nation, and its emperor, Charles VI, had been involved in a
war against the Ottoman empire since 1737. Although Hamburg
was not directly struck by the war, it was part of the empire
and therefore involved in the conflict. The serenata begins
with a 'Chorus of the Heroes' in the form of a battaglia: "The
drum calls with rolling beats, the mortars roar, the swords
flash - this brings joy to our brave hearts". The warriors
are encouraged by Der Kriegsgeist (The Spirit of War),
the Elbe asks the shepherds to end their joy and "lay down
your gentle flutes". It is then Die Zaghaftigkeit
(Timidity) who describes the horrors of the war: "My heart
beats in my horrified breast to think of the ominous gloom of
signs of misfortune. (...) O who, who will save us from ruin?"
Then Der Friede (Peace) enters and declares that "I
am the one who watches over you". This gives Timidity new
In the last part of the serenata the enemy is specifically mentioned.
The Spirit of War says: "The eagle leads the legions before
Istanbul's now horrified gate. He displays in sharpened talons,
the sword drawn for Turkish ruin". He is encouraged by
the Elbe: "Go, let German courage accustom the wild Saracens
even more to servitude". This is followed by an aria which
has again the form of a battaglia. As in the oratorio there
is an opposing character. This time it is Der Neid (Envy)
which expresses his "pleasure in Germany's misfortune".
"I even see now with happy eyes the whole burden and your
demise coming". But then Der Schutzgeist Deutschlands
(Germany's Guardian Spirit) turns up and declares: "Germany
is loved by heaven itself. Up, heroes, up to the fight".
The serenata ends with a chorus: "Germany's glory shall
always stand, and your happy prosperity, Hamburg/Schwerin, is
ordained by God".
Considering that Germany was no political unity, but a patchwork
of largely independent territories the use of the term 'Germany'
is remarkable. It was hardly used in those days, and in his
liner-notes Eckart Kleßman sees it as an expression of the wish
"to put an end to the notorious threat posed to the practically
defenseless German states, to strengthen their self-confidence,
and to reinforce this self-confidence with military security".
Whatever the reason may be, this aspect and the pronounced treatment
of the subject of war makes this Kapitänsmusik rather
unique in this part of Telemann's oeuvre.
One of the dramatic features of the serenata is the representation
of the various characters. In particular The Spirit of War and
Timidity are remarkable, as well as Envy. The characteristics
of these protagonists are impressively explored by the various
singers. In the oratorio it is the role of Negligence which
attracts attention. Here Immo Schröder shines in his humorous
portrayal of this character. Veronika Winter gives an immaculate
performance of the role of Hammonia. As Germany's Guardian Spirit
she sings the last aria of this work, 'Ergreifet den Degen'
(Grip the sword) which is quite virtuosic. But most arias are
pitched at a considerable technical level, and Telemann again
shows his creative spirit, not only in the vocal parts but also
in the instrumental score.
This Kapitänsmusik was first performed in modern
times in 1965 in the former GDR, but its text had to be changed
in many respects, for political reasons. Therefore the live
performance in 2007 in Knechtsteden which was recorded by the
German classical channel WDR Cologne and released by CPO, is
the work's first modern performance in its original state. Hermann
Max and all other participants deserve our gratitude for bringing
this very fine piece of music to our attention. I am looking
forward to the Kapitänsmusiken which are still waiting
to be recorded.
Johan van Veen http://www.musica-dei-donum.org https://twitter.com/johanvanveen
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