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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Kommt, lasset uns anbeten - Inauguration Cantatas for Hamburg and Altona"

Hanna Zumsande, soprano; Alon Harari, alto; Mirko Ludwig, tenor; Fabian Kuhnen, bass
barockwerk hamburg
Dir: Ira Hochman

rec: Sept 10 - 11, 2017, Hamburg-Othmarschen, Christuskirche
CPO - 555 255-2 (© 2019) (65'44")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Geschlagene Pauken, auf! (TWV 13,14); Kommt, lasset uns anbeten (TWV 2,5); Laetare iuvenis in iuventute tua (TWV 14,11)

Pavel Janecek, Tibor Mészáros, trumpet; Idan Levi, transverse flute; Anabel Röser, oboe; Steffen Voss, bassoon; Micaela Storch-Sieben, Katrin Ebert, Christine Philippsen, Maja Hunziker, Rupert Dintinger, violin; Christiane Hampe, Galina Roreck, violin, viola; Sven Holger Philippsen, Christoph Harer, cello; Bernd von Ostrowski, violone; Johannes Gontarski, lute; Ira Hochman, harpsichord; Olga Chumikova, harpsichord, organ; Frithjof Koch, timpani

Georg Philipp Telemann has not only left a large amount of instrumental music, which is often performed and recorded these days, but also a sizeable corpus of vocal music. As he was responsible for the liturgical music in the five main churches in Hamburg, his oeuvre includes a large number of sacred cantatas. However, he also composed many works for special occasions, both in church and in society at large, not only in Hamburg, but also in the neighbourhood. The present disc includes three specimens of this part of his oeuvre.

The longest work is Kommt, lasset uns anbeten (O come, let us worship), whose German title suggests a piece for Christmas, but which was written for inauguration of the church of the St. Hiob Hospital in Hamburg in 1745. This hospital was founded in 1505 and was initially used for patients with infectious diseases. From the mid-16th century it turned into a residential home for healthy affluent citizens who were assured old age care on its premises by bequest. In 1742 the building of a church started, which was completed early in 1745. On 16 February, the church was to be inaugurated with the performance of a composition by Telemann. However, on 20 January, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII died, and as Hamburg had the status of free imperial city and as such stood under the emperor's direct rule, during the four weeks following his death, the performance of polyphonic music and organ playing were prohibited. The inauguration of the church did take place, buth without any music. The parts of Telemann's composition were archived and were only rediscovered in 2001. It seems likely that this work was never performed during Telemann's lifetime.

It is divided into two parts, to be performed before and after the sermon respectively. The author of the libretto was Heinrich Gottlieb Schellhaffer, professor of moral philosophy at the Academic Latin School (Akademisches Gymnasium). As the church was rather small, the scoring is modest: four solo voices, transverse flute and oboe (which were to be played alternately by one performer), two violins and basso continuo. It lends this piece an intimate character, which is further emphasized by the scoring for just three voices (SAB) of the two dicta which open and close the piece.

The opening dictum is a setting of two verses from Psalm 95: "O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our maker". It does not surprise that the first section is dominated by descending figures. It is homophonic, whereas the second section is fugal. Musical figures are used to express the urging nature of the first aria (bass): "Consider and ponder, children of men!" After a recitative for soprano, alto and tenor sing a duet which urges Christians to unite. This is depicted by the two singers joining each other and sing in parallel motion: "Come, Christians, come and unite". The same procedure is followed in the B section: "[To praise the shepherd], the entire flock gathers together". A recitative for bass is followed by the most demanding aria of the work, set for soprano: "The heavens, the earth, mankind and temples extol his [God's] goodness and exalt his might". The text is illustrated by ascending figures. The overall intimate character of this work did not prevent Telemann from writing such an operatic aria. The first part ends with a chorale, the second part opens with another. Then soprano and alto sing a duet: "O Father, hear your children". The insisting tenor of the text is illustrated with musical figures. A recitative for bass is followed by a tenor aria, in which the word "träufle" (drip down) is eloquently depicted. The closing dictum is a setting of a verse from Psalm 33: "Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee".

The second piece is of an entirely different character. It is a Singgedicht, "most solemnly performed at the inauguration of the Royal Academic Latin School (Königliches und Academisches Gymnasium) in Altona, held in the great auditorium on the 26th of May in this year, 1744". Altona, today part of Hamburg, was then an independent town, which was under Danish rule. It had no musical director of its own, and if music for a special occasion was needed, it was often Telemann who provided the music. At least eleven pieces that he composed for Altona between 1741 and 1764 have been preserved. On the other hand, Telemann also sometimes used musicians from Altona, when he needed some extra forces. This Singgedicht, whose libretto was written by Georg August Detharding, professor of history and constitutional law at the Altona Academisches Gymnasium, consists of two parts. In between a festive oration was held, and it seems likely that the sinfonia, that closes the first part, was used to introduce the orator. This piece's scoring includes parts for trumpets and timpani, which play a major role. The work opens with an aria for bass, which begins with a drum roll. The sound of the timpani is also imitated by the soloist, for instance through repeated notes. A tenor recitative leads to a soprano aria, the longest of the work and again technically demanding. It has an obbligato part for the transverse flute. The second part is then a song of praise for the Danish King Christian VI. It opens with a tenor aria: "Praise the king's will, ye Muses!" A recitative for bass is followed by an aria for four voices, which closes the work.

The last item is something like a motet. Its title says "Music for the Hamburg school examinations 1758". These examinations took place around Easter, and the school is in this case the Johanneum, where Telemann was active as teacher himself. It is a setting of two verses from Ecclesiastes 11: "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth". It is in three sections: the first and the last ("Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart") are lively, whereas the middle section is solemn, in line with the text: "But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment". The scoring is very modest: four voices, two violins and basso continuo. The last section is a fugato.

This disc is another fine addition to the growing Telemann discography. The pieces performed here again attest to his skills in setting a text as well as his creative treatment of instruments. The performances leave nothing to be desired. Fabian Kuhnen is a new name to me; he is a solid force, and I like his voice, but sometimes a missed a little profile in his interpretation. Hanna Zumsande and Mirko Ludwig are established forces, and are among the best interpreters of baroque music. I found Alon Harari sometimes a little disappointing in previous recordings because a pretty wide vibrato. Here I liked him much better. The instrumental ensemble delivers colourful performances, and can be subtle as well as powerful, whatever a piece requires.

This is another disc no Telemann lover would like to miss.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

Relevant links:

Mirko Ludwig
Hanna Zumsande
Barockwerk Hamburg

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