Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Cantatas for the Hanoverian Kings of England
Bleibe, lieber König, leben, TWV 13:2 [7:46]
Du bleibest dennoch unser Gott, TWV 13:9b [19:38]
Lieber König, du bist tot, TWV 4:15 [13:19]
Gib, dass ich mich nicht erhebe, TWV 1:621 [12:30]
Grossmächtigster Monarch der Briten, TWV 12:11 [16:51]
Hanna Zumsande (soprano), Dominik Wörner (bass)
barockwerk hamburg/Ira Hochman
rec. 12-14 October 2020, Christuskirche, Hamburg-Othmarschen
CPO 555 426-2 [70:16]
Handel is usually thought of as the composer for Hanoverian kings. But this disc brings together three cantatas written just after his demise in the early 1760s by his friend Telemann in Germany for those monarchs. It is not certain how they came about, or who commissioned them: despite the title of this release, they do not appear to be direct commissions by George II or George III as kings of England as such, but rather to have been composed at the behest of somebody within those kings’ domains in Germany as electors of Hanover, as acts of loyalty or homage to them during the politically fraught period of the Seven Years’ War. Two other entirely unrelated cantatas fill out the disc, but they bear a similar ceremonial character: Du bleibest dennoch unser Gott was written as an occasional work in 1730 for the bicentenary celebrations of the Confession of Augsburg, whereas Telemann composed Gib, dass ich mich nicht erhebe for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity in 1749 as part of his regular duties to contribute to the liturgical cycles of the churches of Hamburg.
The charm and delight of much of this music is its Handelian style in the context of a type of composition that may otherwise suggest comparisons with Bach. These crisp performances by barockwerk hamburg bring out that impression, as much in the more extrovert, bold movements with trumpets and timpani, as in the more reflective ones. The first aria of Lieber König, du bist tot, written on the death of George II, opens with a dignified instrumental passage – underlined here by muted trumpets – which is reminiscent of the Dead March from Saul, whilst the duet which closes Du bleibest dennoch unser Gott steadily builds up a bucolic sense of quiet rapture that is not dissimilar in nature to ‘As steals the morn’ in L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato. Hanna Zumsande and Dominik Wörner’s unhurried signing and the warm playing of the recorders lead to a notably emotional climax on a dominant seventh chord before the movement’s gentle resolution.
Those vocal soloists deliver their parts without operatic or rhetorical extravagance, but provide colour and intelligent musical presence in their focused and thoughtful accounts. Where Zumsande brings restrained but radiant joy – even mischievously so in lightly tripping along the reiterations of “fort” as the personification of Ingratitude for the aria ‘Ich muss entlaufen’ from Gib, dass ich mich nicht erhebe – Wörner evokes a calm, unforced authority, and they complement one another well in the duets. Since no choir is otherwise required for any of these cantatas, the chorales are realised solely as a solo soprano and bass line with the intermediate harmonies filled in by the instruments, rather than as a complete four-part choral texture.
Ira Hochman and barockwerk hamburg make the music sound as fresh as if it were newly written, with often transparent textures and keen rhythms which keep it moving but without at all driving it relentlessly. The trumpets add lustre but do not dominate, and the woodwind make distinctive appearances over the lithe strings.
This worthwhile recording brings to light a few of the buried gems that must lie within the vast body of Telemann’s cantatas, suggesting that, at their best, they bear favourable comparison with those of Bach’s.