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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sacred Arias
GSO Consort/Gudrun Sidonie Otto (soprano)
rec. live, 2015, Schinkelsaal, Gesellschaftshaus, Magdeburg, Germany
Texts and translations included
CPO 555 091-2 [70:40]

Our picture of music life in past centuries is inevitably one-sided. Parts of the repertoire performed centuries ago escape our attention because it was never written down and the subject of constant change. That goes in particular for folk music. Another important aspect of music life was the religious music sung in the homes of the faithful. From the Reformation of the 16th century onwards, many hymn books and other collections of religious music were printed throughout Europe. Most of the hymns are for one voice, without accompaniment, and are therefore not suitable for inclusion in concert programmes or on disc. Sometimes they were the subject of harmonisations or were published with an accompaniment for a single instrument or basso continuo. Examples are the so-called Schemellis Gesangbuch, to which Johann Sebastian Bach contributed, and the collection of chorale harmonisations which his son Carl Philipp Emanuel published after Bach's death. However, even these are only sporadically taken into account when performers put together their concert programmes or prepare a CD recording.

The present disc sheds light on a little-known part of Georg Philipp Telemann's oeuvre. In 1726/27, he published a collection of sacred cantatas for use both church and domestic use, under the title of Harmonischer Gottesdienst. These are scored for either a high (soprano/tenor) or middle (mezzo-soprano/baritone) voice, a melody instrument (two instruments in the second volume) and basso continuo. They are pretty well-known and currently the whole collection is being recorded by Bergen Barokk for Toccata Classics. In 1727, Telemann published another collection of sacred pieces, this time exclusively for home use, under the title (translated): "Extract of those musical arias, based on the standard gospels, which were performed in Hamburg's principal churches in the liturgical year 1726–27". The arias are selected from cantatas which were commonly scored for four voices, instruments and basso continuo. For this collection, Telemann selected two arias for every Sunday and feast day, and scored them for a high or a middle voice and basso continuo. As most of the original arias included parts for melody instruments, he had to arrange them in such a way that the main elements which contributed to the expression of the text, were kept intact.

In 2016, CPO released a first disc with arias from this collection, for Advent and Christmas (review). The present disc opens with arias for the 10th Sunday after Trinity (August) and ends with two for the 20th Sunday after Trinity (October). These arias are full of expression in both the vocal part and the basso continuo. A couple of examples can illustrate this.

In the first aria, Jammervolle Liebestränen, the "woeful tears of love" are depicted by short notes in the basso continuo. There are strong accents in the opening phrase of the next aria, for the 11th Sunday after Trinity, on the text "O lightning bolt that shatters heart and spirit". The second aria for that same day is very different: sighing figures are used to illustrate the first two lines: "Weeping, sighing, groaning, wailing, yet still with hope". "Let us give thanks and praise", says the aria Laßt uns danken, laßt uns loben (track 9); here Telemann uses a lively rhythm, accents and ascending figures, and coloratura on "exalted on high" in the B section.

The next aria (track 10) begins with the words: "Ye bright lilies flowering in beauty, adornment surpassing the gold of kings!" The word "surpassing" is illustrated by ascending coloratura, and Gudrun Sidonie Otto effectively increases her volume here. Very nice is the aria Wolle doch die Stunde schlagen (track 13): the first line, "If only the hour would strike" inspired Telemann to the motif of a ticking clock in the basso continuo. In the aria Demut ist der Tugend Krone, the word "Demut" (meekness) dominates the mood of the whole piece. Tracks 16 and 17 include two arias for St Michael; music for this feast often has a combative character. That is no different here as far as the first aria is concerned: "O jubilant, radiant hosts of the Divinity, enthroned in blazing majesty!" The word "blazing" is depicted by ascending, leaping figures. The second aria for this feast is completely different as it is a prayer: "Let the hands of your angels bear my soul to my final resting place". Lastly, I would like to mention Todesangst und Höllenschrecken, the only aria on this disc without a da capo. The text - "Mortal fear and infernal terrors are the ripe fruit of sin" - inspired Telemann to use unsettling harmonies which eloquently illustrate the effect of sin.

Gudrun Sidonie Otto has done us a great favour by turning her attention to this highly interesting and musically compelling aria collection. It shows that Telemann's cantatas are models of textual expression, and one can only hope that the cantatas from which the arias are taken, will be available in their original scoring sometime in the future. There is still much to discover in this part of Telemann's oeuvre. Ms Otto is an excellent interpreter; she proved that in the previous disc and here confirms that impression. She fully explores the expressive qualities of these arias. Like the previous disc, the present one is a live recording, and David Erler let me know that he was indisposed at the concert. He urged me to concentrate on Ms Otto's performances instead of his. I noticed that sometimes his singing is not as powerful as one would wish; for instance, in Krache, sinke, morsche Hütte!. Obviously, I don't know in what way Erler would have liked his performances to be different from what he was able to achieve at the concert. However, his singing is pretty good, and I have enjoyed his contributions nonetheless.

This is a disc I shall return to regularly. I should not forget to mention the instrumentalists, who have realised the basso continuo in such a meaningful way, underlining the expression Telemann included in these fine arias.

Johan van Veen

For the 10th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,1629a):
Jammervolle Liebestränen! [2:24]
For the 11th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,1466a):
Blitz, der Herz und Geist zerschmettert! [3:02]
Weinend, seufzend, ächzend, klagend [2:59]
For the 12th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,1219a):
Kräftigs Wort, voll Heil und Leben [2:37]
Gott hat uns alles wohl gemacht [2:55]
For the 13th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,801a):
Seel und Leib sind fest verbunden [3:54]
Zerschmilz doch die beeisten Herzen [2:56]
For the 14th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,998a):
Gott nimmt die Farren unsrer Lippen [3:23]
Lass uns danken, lass uns loben! [2:25]
For the 15th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,1703a):
Prangende Lilien in sprossender Schöne [2:35]
Mein in dir gelassnes Herze [3:08]
For the 16th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,68a):
Krache, sinke, morsche Hütte! [3:11]
Wollte doch die Stunde schlagen [4:02]
For the 17th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,691a):
Demut ist der Tugend Krone [2:33]
Nur Jesu, du sollst in mir leben [3:11]
For the feast of St Michael (TWV 1,335a):
Thronender Gottheit in flammender Pracht [2:48]
Lass auch deiner Engel Hände [3:56]
For the 18th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,661a):
Welt, verlange nicht mein Herz [4:20]
Die Glut, so nach dem Himmel steiget [2:54]
For the 19th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,1700a):
Todesangst und Höllenschrecken [1:25]
Gott, wo ist ein solcher Gott [2:54]
For the 20th Sunday after Trinity (TWV 1,1675a):
Prang im Golde, stolze Welt! [3:47]
Geziert mit seinem eignen Schmucke [3:07]

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