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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767)
Herr Gott, dich loben wir, oratorio (TWV 11,15a/b) [37:50]
O erhabnes Glück der Ehe, serenata (TWV 11,15c) [65:12]
Hannah Morrison (soprano) - Pantyches; Margot Oitzinger (contralto) - Philotimus; Markus Schäfer (tenor) - Macrobius; Immo Schröder (tenor) - Eucharius; Matthias Vieweg (bass) - Polycarpus; Christos Pelekanos (bass) - Trophimus
Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
rec. live, 19 - 21 September 2012, Basilika, Knechtsteden, Germany. DDD
Texts and translations included
CPO 777 808-2 [37:50 + 65:12]

Georg Philipp Telemann was a very busy man. In 1721 he was appointed director musices in Hamburg. In this capacity he was responsible for the music in the five main churches on all Sundays and feastdays, including a new Passion every year. That was not all. As he was in the service of the city he was expected to write the music for special state occasions, such as jubilees, funerals of members of the city's administration and the annual banquets of the captains of the citizen militia (the so-called Kapitänsmusiken). The music director was at the centre of musical life in the city, and members of the elite turned to him whenever a celebration was to take place. That resulted in compositions like the one which is the subject of this production.
 
It was written on the occasion of the golden wedding anniversary of Matthias and Maria Catharina Mutzenbecher in 1732. Mutzenbecher was not just anybody. He was an important member of the Hamburg community and played a major role in its public life. He was an independent businessman, a member of the city council since 1710, had a leading position in the parish of St Nicholas, was a colonel in one of the regiments of the citizen militia and landlord of various villages around Hamburg. This explains that the celebration of his wedding anniversary was a major event. Not only his children and grandchildren were present, but also the local dignitaries made an appearance in full regalia.
 
Telemann was asked to write the music; the libretto was written by Michael Richey, professor of history and Greek and an experienced author of occasional poetry. The city council ordered the Oper am Gänsemarkt not to schedule any performances during the days of the celebration. This allowed Telemann to attract the best singers available.
 
In this composition Telemann uses the same texture as in his Kapitänsmusiken. The first part is an oratorio on a sacred text, the second a serenata with a secular text, performed by singers who represent allegorical characters. The celebration started with a service in St Nicholas Church the centrepiece of which was the blessing of the couple at the altar. Before and after that ceremony Telemann's oratorio was performed.
 
The core of the oratorio are the stanzas of the chorale Herr Gott, dich loben wir - Martin Luther's adaptation of the Te Deum. In these stanzas the singers and the orchestra are joined by three trumpets and timpani. Recitatives and arias express God's blessing of the Mutzenbechers, not least for reaching such a great age, "[for] many do not reach the goal of your years". God is asked to keep blessing them and their children: "If you increase our days, Lord, then they shall be days of jubilation to your praise".
 
The serenata was performed during the banquet which was held in the house of the eldest son. The soloists represent various characters who all claim to be the main source of a good and happy marriage. Eucharius states that "[love], as queen, must be awarded praise above all others, because without love on earth the wedded state knows of no heaven". Polycarpus personifies Fertility: "He whose family blossoms in upright sons, he who sees his joy in noble daughters first tastes what brings uncommon pleasure". Trophimus represents Nurture: "Where the breadbasket hangs low, O how securely one then does sleep!". Philotimus insists that it is Honour which is the main source of happiness: "Honour casts, in the case of the happily married, the anchor of contentment". Then Macrobius speaks; he believes that Longevity is the most important thing. "Noble crown of grey hairs, nothing is above your silver. Among countless treasures a blessing of high years raises its honourable head". Lastly Pantyches enters the debate and acts as conciliator: "[On] all sides apparently strong arguments are put forth, the victory is not mine, not yours. (...) May dear Mutzenbecher's marriage convince you by its evidence; in it at one and the same time, of all the benefits in the heights, what each among you rightly terms his advantage does merge together". The serenata ends with a series of ensembles: duets and arias for five and six voices respectively. In them the praise of the Mutzenbechers is sung and the wish is expressed that more families in Hamburg may experience their kind of happiness.
 
As one may expect there is a lot of good music in this piece. Telemann was a highly skilled composer of arias some of which are quite demanding. The instrumental scoring is always interesting as well. In the Serenata the transverse flute plays a prominent role, for instance in the aria of Eucharius 'Erlaubet mir, ihr hocherfahrnen beide' and in Polycarpus' aria 'Wem sein Geschlecht'. Pantyches' aria 'Schöner Wettstreit edler Gaben' is delightful in its scoring for soprano and flute, with the strings playing pizzicato. Remarkable is 'Mit schwimmenden Augen': "With watery eyes, with swelling hearts, our united wishing is pronounced". Here for the first and only time Telemann makes use of a pair of chalumeaux. This aria a 5 has the rhythm of a sarabande and it is characterised by a tone repetition in the voices and the chalumeaux. This probably depicts the "schwimmenden Augen", which literally means 'swimming eyes' - or maybe the beating of the heart.
 
This is a recording of a live performance. There is some laughter along the way - not very loud, fortunately - but that is probably more due to the gesturing of the singers than the content of the serenata. I would have preferred a studio production. Even so, one can only be thankful: the music is always entertaining and often quite brilliant, and Hermann Max has brought together an outstanding team of singers. They are all splendid; there is no single weak spot here. Max pays much attention to the delivery, and as a result one can clearly understand the text. Das Kleine Konzert proves again that it is a very fine ensemble and the obbligato parts are immaculately executed.
 
This is another disc no Telemann lover would want to miss.
 
One technical issue should be mentioned: the second aria of Eucharius in the serenata (Erlaubet mir) is allocated to track 6 of disc 2, but begins after 00:27 in the previous track.
 
Johan van Veen
http://www.musica-dei-donum.org
https://twitter.com/johanvanveen 


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