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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Aller Augen warten auf dich - Cantatas
Aller Augen warten auf dich (TWV 1,66) [11:16]
In Christo gilt wder Bescheidung noch Vorhaut (TWV 1,929) [10:17]
Ich bin der Erste und der Letzte (TWV 1,816) [16:33]
Siehe, eine Jungfrau ist schwanger (TWV 1,1326) [12:22]
Sabine Goetz (soprano), Marnix De Cat (alto), Philippe Gagné (tenor), Werner Van Mechelen (bass)
Ex Tempore, Mannheimer Hofkapelle / Florian Heyerick
rec. 2016, Konzerthalle Georg Philipp Telemann, Magdeburg, Germany
Texts and translations included
CPO 555 083-2 [50:47]

The German label CPO is one of the main promoters of the oeuvre of Georg Philipp Telemann. Several of its productions are the result of a close cooperation with the Telemann Festival of Magdeburg which took place for the first time in 1962. In recent years, several discs included music that had been performed during one of the festivals. That is the case with the present disc as well. In March 2016 this programme of four cantatas was performed live during the festival. This could well explain its rather short time, which is about its only disappointing aspect.

Florian Heyerick selected four cantatas from Telemann’s large corpus Telemann. They are from two different years, 1717 and 1720, when he worked in Frankfurt, but they are part of the same cycle. In 1716 Telemann started to compose a cycle in which the concertante principle, which is a feature of the Italian style, manifests itself. For this cycle, he cooperated with Erdmann Neumeister, who was unable to provide on time the texts for an entire yearly cycle. As a result, the first half of the cycle, from 1716/1717, comprises music for the period from Advent to the third Day of Pentecost. The remaining half followed in 1719/1720. As one may expect, instruments play a considerable role. The basic scoring is for two oboes, bassoon, strings and basso continuo.

The oboes and bassoon are omitted in Ich bin der erste und der letzte; the strings are joined by a trumpet instead. This cantata is written for the first day of Easter. Its structure is also different from that of the other cantatas, which open with a dictum (a literal quotation from the Bible), followed by a sequence of recitatives and arias, and close with a chorale harmonization. This cantata opens with an Introduction, a sinfonia for trumpet and strings in two sections. The dictum is not for the entire ensemble, as are the others, but for a bass, who gets involved in a kind of dialogue with the trumpet. This is one of the ways in which the concertante principle works. In the opening phrases, the bass imitates the fanfare motifs of the trumpet. On the text "I was dead", the strings play pizzicato; the same happens in a short passage in the Introduction. The dictum is followed by an aria for four voices, another notable difference from the other cantatas. The first recitative is for bass, but – as is also the case in the other recitatives on this disc – includes arioso passages. Notable here is the coloratura on the word "lebet" (lives). The second recitative is the longest part of the cantata, and that is often the case in the cantatas included here. They are used to communicate the message of the cantata, and are closely connected to the Gospel of the day.

This Easter cantata is from 1717, and so is Siehe, eine Jungfrau ist schwanger, which is intended for the feast of the Annunciation (not the 7th Sunday after Trinity, as the track-list has it). In 1717 this feast, on 25 March, fell on the Wednesday before Easter. The cantata, scored for two oboes, two bassoons, strings and basso continuo, opens with a dictum from the prophet Isaiah (ch 7): "Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." It is for choir, but includes short passages for solo voice. There follows a long recitative for bass, and then soprano and alto sing a duet. That is to say: most of this piece is for alto; he is joined by the soprano at the closing line. Here the wind and the strings have independent parts, whereas in the second aria, for soprano, the oboes play with the violins.

The other two cantatas are from 1720. Aller Augen warten auf dich is for the 7th Sunday after Trinity. The Gospel of the day is from Mark 8, which tells about the feeding of the four thousand. The dictum, from Psalm 145, refers to this: "The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time." Here Telemann juxtaposes the wind and the strings. The same is the case in the first aria, for soprano; in the B section the bassoon has an obbligato part. The second aria is for bass.

In Christo gilt weder Beschneidung noch Vorhaut is for the 13th Sunday after Trinity. The Gospel is from Luke 10, which includes the parable of the Good Samaritan. The libretto emphasizes the connection between faith and love. That is expressed first in the dictum, from Galatians 5: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." As all the tutti sections, the dictum is homophonic. The first aria is for alto; it is short (1:59) and rather straightforward. It has no dacapo, unlike the second aria, for soprano. In the B section the phrase "be true even unto death" is illustrated by descending figures.

The soloists in this recording are probably not that well known. Marnix De Cat is a seasoned interpreter of early music. His singing is fine, but his voice is a little too weak. I have heard Sabine Goetz only a couple of times before, and here she confirms my positive impressions. Philippe Gagné is an unknown quantity to me. I like his voice, but his contributions are small, as he has only some recitatives to sing. Werner Van Mechelen has been active mainly on the opera stage and is also a frequent interpreter of the romantic song repertoire. In comparison his activities in the field of early music are limited. Therefore I was a little sceptical when I saw his name on the list of interpreters. However, he does very well. His recitatives are excellent, and he makes an especially good impression in the Easter cantata, in his collaboration with the trumpet. In the tutti the soloists are joined by four ripienists. The playing of the ensemble is first-class, and Fruzsina Hara deserves praise for the performances of the trumpet parts.

Despite its short playing time, nobody interested in Telemann's music should overlook this disc. We have here again four cantatas which demonstrate Telemann's creativity. It is impressive that every time, despite the fact that the basic structure is the same, he can give a cantata a specific character. His skills in the treatment of the text come to the fore in the arias, but also in the recitatives. Some of the latter may be quite long, yet they never fail to make an impression, as Telemann does not miss any opportunity to depict the text. Key passages are singled out through the use of an arioso. The instrumental scoring is equally impressive.

Johan van Veen

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