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Cantatas for Soprano

 

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RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst (1726) Volume 6: Seven Cantatas for high voice, oboe and basso continuo.
Endlich wird die Stunde schlagen , TVWV 1:440 [9:19]
Was gleicht dem Adel wahrer Christen , TVWV 1:1511 [10:37]
Schmeckt und sehet unsers Gottes Freundlichkeit , TVWV 1:1252 [12:18]
Warum verstellst du die Gebärden? TVWV 1:1502 [13:31]
Ein jeder läuft, der in den Schranken läuft , TVWV 1:425 [9:39]
Der Reichtum macht allein beglückt , TVWV 1:313 (first recording) [8:40]
Schaut die Demut Palmen tragen , TVWV 1:1245 [9:38]
Jan van Elsacker (tenor)
Bergen Barokk
rec. Hoff Kirke, Lena, Østre Toten, Norway, 27-30 April 2011 and 10 April 2013. DDD.
Booklet includes texts and translations.
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0180 [76:04]

My colleagues and I have used up most of our superlatives in reviewing earlier releases in this excellent series, scheduled to record all 72 cantatas in Telemann’s 1726 collection for the whole church year:

- TOCC0037 and TOCC0057 – DL Roundup November 2009review by Johan van Veen
- TOCC0074 – DL Roundup February 2011
- TOCC0084 – February 2012/1review by Johan van Veen
- TOCC0102 – review by Johan van Veen

Though only one of the works here is claimed as a first recording (TWV 1:313), there is no other recording in the current UK catalogue of TWV 1:1511 or 1:425.  Nor do any of them appear on any of the CPO1 and Capriccio recordings of the Telemann cantatas – the chief rivals to the Toccata project.  The Dynamic series and the 2-CD Brilliant Classics set are download only now - the latter costing more than when it was available at budget price on CD and without booklet, though well worth streaming from classicsonlinehd.com.

As before the cantatas are grouped according to the soloist’s voice type rather than by the period of the church year.  On this album we range from Advent II via the Christmas period and the Sundays after Epiphany, now known as Ordinary Time, to Lent II and Palm Sunday.  There’s less variety than you might expect but what the cantatas lack in that respect they more than make up in beauty. 

Those coming new to the series should be aware that these are not like the Bach Cantatas, which mostly contain choral parts and chorales for congregational participation.  Telemann employs just the solo voice and a small group of instruments.  In eighteenth-century Hamburg a cantata preceded the sermon and one followed; some of the performers had to dash off to other churches during the sermon, hence the reduced forces for the works included in the Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst for use after the sermon.  They also seem to have been intended for domestic use.

None of the soloists have been ‘big’ names but all have been first class.  Jan van Elsacker has made a number of recordings for various labels.  He has a voice that suits the baroque repertoire, though he has also recorded music by Schubert and Schumann.  I didn’t specifically mention his contribution to Keiser’s Brockes-passion (Ramée RAM1303) in my brief survey of music from the Outhere group for Passiontide and Easter, so let me make amends now and acknowledge that it added to my appreciation of that recording, as did Zsuzsi Tóth (soprano) and Peter Kooj (bass).

I should also have mentioned his contribution as Inteletto in Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo (Alpha ALPHA065) when I compared that recording with the more recent version from Concerto Vocale and René Jacobs (Harmonia Mundi – review).   In making amends now I hope to remind readers of the qualities of those recordings, too.

Elsacker’s is a light tenor voice, almost sounding like a counter-tenor at times, but he has a good range and he needs it – just occasionally, as in the first cantata, Telemann calls on a voice with an almost baritonal range.  I certainly didn’t find any of the slight edginess that Johan van Veen reported in his review of Melchior Franck’s Penitential Psalms (CPO 777181-2)

Bergen Barokk offer accomplished support throughout and the recording is very good.  Though it’s an ‘ordinary’ CD, my Pioneer SACD player and Cambridge Audio blu-ray/SACD player both found more in it than my CD player.

The booklet is excellent, too.  If I have a grumble it’s that it’s so full that it’s hard to get in and out of the jewel case.  Toccata under-sell themselves by claiming a playing-time of 73:42 – I make it an even more generous and thoroughly enjoyable 76:04.

This could be an ideal place to get into this ongoing series but I should warn you that, having heard it, you may well be tempted to go for its five predecessors.  This is the first of them that I have reviewed on disc as opposed to downloads: the Recording of the Month accolade is for the whole series to date.

1 Most recently ‘Luther’ Cantatas on 777753-2 – DL News 2014/4.  As well as eclassical.com, Qobuz have this, slightly less expensively: neither offers the booklet of essential texts.  Nor do classicsonlinehd.com, where it can be sampled by all and streamed by subscribers.

Brian Wilson

 




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