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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Zerschmettert die Götzen - Cantatas"

Dorothee Mields, sopranoa; Klaus Mertens, bassb
Accademia Daniel
Dir: Shalev Ad-El

rec: March 15 - 17, 2006, Leipzig-Gundorf, Ev. Kirche
CPO - 777 249-2 (© 2007) (71'49")

Der geliebte und verlorne Jesus (Meine Rede bleibt betrübt) (TWV 1,1099)a; Jesus und die Seele (Dein Schade ist verzweifelt böse) (TWV 1,1133)a,b; Zerschmettert die Götzen (TWV 2,7)a,b

Tomi Krausz, transverse flute; Ofer Frenkel, oboe; Lilia Slavny, Daphna Ravid, violin; Amos Boasson, viola; Thomas Fritzsch, cello; Claus-Peter Nebelung, double bass; Shalev Ad-El, harpsichord, organ; with Hans-Martin Rux, Almut Rux, natural trumpet; Stefan Gawlick, timpani

Telemann was one of the most famous composers of Germany at the end of the baroque era. That found expression in requests to compose music for special occasions, for example the consecration of a newly built church. During his career as a composer he wrote several works for such occasions, mostly in and around Hamburg, where he worked from 1721 until his death, but in 1738 even for a church in Nuremberg, in the far south of Germany. The longest piece on this disc, Zerschmettert die Götzen, is also written for the consecration of the church in Neuenstädten (today called Nienstedten and part of Hamburg) in May 1751. The more Telemann's vocal music is explored the more one is impressed by the quality and the originality of his music. That is also the case here.

Most compositions of this kind are divided into two parts, the first of which was to be performed before, and the second after the sermon. It is therefore remarkable that this cantata is in three parts. It isn't quite known what reason Telemann had to split this piece into three. The second and third are much shorter than the first: the second even consists of just one duet. In this cantata Telemann shows to be able to adapt his style of composing to the changing taste of his time. The baroque principle of the unity of Affekt, for example, is left here in favour of strongly contrasting Affekte. The very first aria is proof of this: it begins with the bass singing "Smash the idols, away! Hurl them down from the temple of the Most High", accompanied by trumpets and timpani. This is followed by a most introverted passage on the words: "The Ancient of Days comes on the wings of the winds, gently, slowly, mildly", and here he is accompanied softly by the strings. After this passage the trumpets and timpani return when the bass sings: "his presence shakes all the walls". After an accompanied recitative soprano and bass sing a short duet: "The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah." Here Telemann causes a surprise by the contrapuntal setting of this last word. Then the bass returns to the first part of the opening aria. A recitative and aria for soprano – in the latter the soloist is accompanied by flute and two violins playing unisono - and a recitative for bass lead to a chorale which concludes the first part. Like the whole cantata it is set for soprano and bass, with a violin contributing a third voice to this chorale. As already stated the second part consists of a duet, which is again quite remarkable because of the mixture of old-fashioned imitation and modern text expression. The phrase "o then always be near us" receives special attention here. The third and last section of the cantata contains a recitative, an aria for bass and another chorale.

The two other cantatas on this disc are from a much earlier date, and were probably written during Telemann's time in Frankfurt, where he acted as city director of music and Kapellmeister at the Barfüsserkirche from 1712 to 1721. Der geliebte und verlorne Jesus is connected to the events on the morning of Easter: Mary Magdalene is going to the tomb where Jesus has been laid to rest, but finds the tomb empty. She then thinks someone has taken Jesus' body away and tries to find him. Her feelings and actions are depicted in the form of references to the Song of Songs, which had a long tradition of being interpreted as an allegory about the love between God and the soul. The first aria indicates what this cantata is about: "My speech is saddened because I miss my Jesus, who gives me wonderfully sweet kisses". The A-section of this aria is dominated by sighing figures (Seufzer) expressing the despair of Mary Magdalene, whereas the last sentence is accompanied by lively figures in the oboe part. In this cantata Telemann again surprises by the structure: after the recitative the soprano sings another dacapo aria: the A-section is the same as that of the first aria, but the B-section has new text and new music. Here we find another strong reference to the Song of Songs as Mary Magdalene asks the watchmen: "Have you seen my friend, him whom my soul loves?" Another surprise follows with the third aria: no dacapo this time, but an aria in two stanzas on the same music. The following recitative leads into the closing aria without interruption.

The last item is a cantata for soprano and bass, representing the soul and Jesus respectively. It belongs to a category of cantatas which we also come across in Bach's oeuvre, like BWV 49, Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen. In Jesus und die Seele the soul is seeking for forgiveness which Jesus is ready to grant but only after the soul is showing true remorse. The turning point is the recitative 'Komm zu mir', where Jesus says: "Just come to me with faith, remorse and prayer" and the soul answers: "I reserve the same, my Jesus and my protector, for you alone" which is followed by an aria in which Jesus sings: "Now hear this word: your guilt is forgiven you". After a recitative of the soul the cantata ends with a duet. In this cantata we find another less conventional practice in that the first aria of the soprano is regularly interrupted by short recitatives. The use of keys in the last aria of this cantata shows Telemann's mastery of the baroque Affekt.

Dorothee Mields and Klaus Mertens belong to the most experienced and knowledgeable singers of German sacred music. In this recording they show their thorough understanding of the musical language of Telemann, and they sing their parts with great sensitivity. In the duets their voices blend excellently, and their diction in the recitatives is exemplary. The instrumental scoring is modest: transverse flute, oboe, two violins, viola, cello, double bass and organ, with two trumpets and timpani in the first cantata. The instruments are effectively used by Telemann to depict the Affekt he wants to express. The playing of the Accademia Daniel leaves nothing to be desired.

This disc is an important addition to the catalogue of vocal works by Telemann. It can only enhance the admiration for a composer who during his whole career has displayed an astonishing creativity and freshness and time and again surprises the listener with his original ideas. Strongly recommended.

Johan van Veen (© 2008)

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