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Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Trauret, ihr Himmel, TVWV 1:1414 (1760) [21.22]
Veni, sancte spiritus, TVWV 3:83 (?1756) [5.05]
Carl Phillip Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Gott hat den Herrn auferwecket H 803/ Wq 244 (1756) [26.27]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Veni, sancte spiritus, TVWV 3:84 (1760) [2.05]
Er neigte den Himmel TVWV 1:457 (1762) [18.07]
Veronika Winter (soprano), Margot Oitzinger (alto), Georg Poplutz (tenor), Matthias Vieweg (bass)
Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max (conductor)
rec. Pauluskirche, Magdeburg, 14-15 March 2014.
CPO 777 946-2 [73.43]

This historically focused CD has much more significance than the merely historical. The Magdeburg Telemann Festival has run since 1962. In 2014, the Festival concentrated on music by Telemann and C.P.E. Bach – Telemann’s godson and successor at Hamburg. The pieces here reflect both that relationship and the ecclesiastical musical life of the city over a period of about six years from 1756.

And fine music this is. There are questions about the precise compositional relationships between the two composers, explored in depth in the accompanying notes. There is nothing simply conventional or routine in either, though here Bach is perhaps the more adventurous. In one sense it is invidious to draw such a comparison, if it seems to disparage the musical invention of the elder composer. The opening cantata, Trauret, ihr Himmel, by Telemann, is splendid. The text works by sharp contrasts in mood and faith. This is a piece composed for the joy of Easter, yet the first words are ‘Trauret, ihr Himmel! Und weine, du Erde! …’ (‘Grieve, ye heavens! And weep, O earth!’), sung by the first choir, only to evoke the response from the second choir: ‘Er lebt! O singt ihm, seine Brüder!’ (‘He lives! Sing to him, you his brothers!’). Throughout, the joy of resurrection and rebirth is contrasted in stark terms with the grief of death and the cross. Finally, the believer is reminded that the joy of resurrection demands fixing the heart on heaven and that moving beyond the world is essential to share in that resurrection. These contrasts are echoed in the music, to underline the idea that the purpose of the work is educational and devotional, and not simply an entertainment.

The other cantatas are theologically less complex, but have compensating strengths. Telemann’s ‘Er neigte den Himmel’ begins with a double choir of angels before giving numbers, arias, duets and recitatives) to The Christian, to Christ himself, to the Man of Faith, to Joy and Faith, ending in Devotion, a meditation on life, death and hope of resurrection. In text, the Bach ‘Gott hat den Herrn auferwecket’, the longest of the three pieces, has its own complexities, delicate word-setting and inventive instrumentation, despite being more obviously conventional in its religious ideas.

The two brief versions of the Veni Sancte Spiritus are also worth hearing. While the cantatas were obviously for Easter, the original thirteenth century Sequence belongs properly to Pentecost, in the Catholic tradition, after the reading of the epistle, but this much reduced and reworded version was often differently used in Protestant Hamburg. Despite the brevity of the pieces, Telemann orchestrates them joyously, with trumpets and kettledrums.

Performances here are informed and joyous, the sixteen-voice choir incisive and precise. The soloists are all excellent. The performances are marked by both a sense of purpose, with brisk tempos which never obscure melodic lines. Notes are excellent, full texts are provided, and production values well up to the standards we expect from this label.

Michael Wilkinson



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