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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Cantatas and chamber music with recorder"

Gemma Bertagnolli, sopranoa
Collegium Pro Musica
Dir: Stefano Bagliano

rec: Feb 25 - 27, 2012, Montevarchi (Arezzo)
Brilliant Classics - 94334 (© 2013) (56'37")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list
Score Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst & Fortsetzung des Harmonischen Gottes-Dienstes
Score Kleine Cammer-Music

Also hat Gott die Welt geliebet (TWV 1,168), cantata for high voice, two oboes [recorders] and bcab [3]; Deine Toten werden leben (TWV 1,213), cantata for high voice, recorder and bca [2]; Du bist verflucht, o Schreckensstimme (TWV 1,385), cantata for high voice, recorder and bca [2]; Hemmet den Eifer, verbannet die Rache (TWV 1,730), cantata for high voice, recorder and bca [2]; Partita for treble instrument and bc No. 5 in e minor (TWV 41,e1) [1]; Sonata for oboe, violin [two recorders] and bc in g minor (TWV 42,g2)b

Sources: [1] Kleine Cammer-Music, 1716; [2] Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst, 1725/26; [3] Fortsetzung des Harmonischen Gottes-Dienstes, 1731/32

Stefano Bagliano, Lorenzo Cavasantib, recorder; Gioele Gusberti, cello; Gianluca Capuano, harpsichord

"Telemann wrote more than any other composer of the Baroque period for my instrument, the recorder - and with idiomatic success which is what has encouraged me to get to know the composer and his music in greater depth". Thus Stefano Bagliano opens his liner-notes in the booklet accompanying this disc. It is then a little surprising that half of the programme is devoted to compositions which are not specifically meant for the recorder or were even scored for other instruments in the first place.

The Partita No. 5 in e minor is from a collection of six pieces with this title, which Telemann published in 1716 as Kleine Cammer-Music. All these pieces are scored for one treble instrument and bc. At the title page Telemann mentions the instruments which he had in mind: the oboe, the violin and the transverse flute. He even mentions the harpsichord, but there is no reference to the recorder. That in itself doesn't mean that a performance on the recorder isn't legitimate. Composers in Telemann's time were mostly rather pragmatic in regard to the scoring of their works, especially when they were aimed at the growing market of amateurs. It does mean, though, that one cannot claim that a piece like this is idiomatically written for the recorder. In the complete recording of this set by Camerata Köln (CPO, 1997) this partita is played on the transverse flute, whereas the recorder is used in the 6th Partita. The Sonata in g minor is an independent piece which Telemann scored for oboe and violin. It comes off pretty well with two recorders, though.

This disc is especially interesting in that it includes four cantatas with a part for recorder. That is to say, Also hat Gott die Welt geliebet was originally scored - according to the booklet - for solo voice with two oboes and bc. It is from a collection which was printed in 1731-32 as Fortsetzung des Harmonischen Gottes-Dienstes. The cantatas are scored for solo voice, two treble instruments and bc. The catalogue number is a little confusing as TWV 1,168 refers to a cantata with the title Daran ist erschienen. It is not explained in the booklet, but I assume that Telemann has used the music of one of these cantatas for a new text. It is rather odd that they didn't receive different entries in the Telemann catalogue. Anyway, it is a nice work - written for the second day of Pentecost - especially in regard to the connection between the voice and the two instruments. Imitative counterpoint and passages with the two instruments playing in parallel motion alternate. The recorders sometimes play in unison with the voice.

The other three cantatas are from the previous collection, Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst, which was published in 1725-26. These are scored for solo voice, one treble instrument and bc. Deine Toten werden leben is especially remarkable for its opening aria. This collection was written for performance in churches as well as in domestic circles. Therefore the virtuosic character of this aria is surprising. There are extended coloraturas for the voice on the word "leben" and at the end of the B-part Telemann includes a long coloratura which is very much in the style of opera. The recorder part is equally demanding. However, in the opening aria of Hemmet den Eifer the two parts are very different. Here it is only the recorder part which is technically demanding whereas the vocal part is more straightforward.

In these cantatas Telemann demonstrates his skills in setting a text to music in such a way that the content is effectively expressed. An impressive example is the opening aria from Du bist verflucht, o Schreckensstimme where chromatic passages illustrate the text which refers to the fall of mankind and its effects. This aria is followed by a lengthy recitative: it lasts longer than each of the two arias. In the other cantatas they are a little shorter but still of considerable length. Again Telemann impresses with his text setting.

Unfortunately this is where Gemma Bertagnolli is at her most disappointing. She has a very nice voice and certainly there is no lack of passion, but she is far more at home in Italian repertoire. Her pronunciation is quite horrible and her diction below par. As the text takes first place in these cantatas this is simply unacceptable. Because of her insufficient mastery of German the phrasing is also often unsatisfying. The arias come off only slightly better, but not enough to change my verdict. In some of the dacapos her ornamentation is excessive, to the extent that she virtually rewrites complete lines. That is stylistically debatable in itself, it is certainly not appropriate to this kind of cantata.

In the end it is mostly the fine playing of Stefano Bagliano which is this disc's asset. However, I don't expect anyone to purchase it only for his playing. As much as I love Telemann's cantatas I am not tempted to listen to this disc once again. The vocal part leaves far too much to be desired. The lack of English translations is a serious omission.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Gemma Bertagnolli
Collegium Pro Musica

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