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Georg Philipp TELEMANN & Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH: "Veni sancte spiritus - Festive Cantatas"

Veronika Winter, soprano; Margot Oitzinger, contralto; Georg Poplutz, tenor; Matthias Vieweg, bass
Rheinische Kantorei; Das Kleine Konzert
Dir: Hermann Max

rec: March 14 & 15, 2014 (live), Magdeburg, Pauluskirche
CPO - 777 946-2 (© 2016) (73'43")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788): Gott hat den Herrn auferwecket (Wq 244 / H 803) (ed. GPh Telemann, 1756); Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Er neigte den Himmel (TWV 1,467); Trauret, ihr Himmel (TWV 1,1414); Veni, sancte spiritus (TWV 3,83); Veni, sancte spiritus (TWV 3,84)

It is a little surprising that Georg Philipp Telemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach don't appear that often together in concert programmes or on disc. They were closely connected in two ways. Emanuel was Telemann's godson, and succeeded him in his position as director musices in Hamburg, after the latter's death in 1767. However, they were not only biographically connected; there was also a musical connection. That aspect is the subject of the present disc. Two cantatas are intended for Easter, the third was written for Ascension Day. Because of that there is also a strong liturgical coherence within the programme.

Most of Emanuel Bach's sacred music dates from his years in Hamburg, where it was part of his duties to perform the music in the five main churches on Sundays and feastdays. However, his cantata Gott hat den Herrn auferwecket is the earliest piece in the programme. It dates from 1756, when he was still working at the court of Frederick the Great in Berlin. It is not known what may have been the reason that he wrote this cantata. Ralph-Jürgen Reipsch in his liner-notes comes up with several suggestions. It may have been written for Frederick's sister, Anna Amalia, who was also the addressee of Emanuel's organ sonatas. Another possibility is that it was intended as a trial composition for applications elsewhere. It is known that at that time Emanuel looked elsewhere for a position which would allow him to leave Berlin. In 1755 he had applied for the position of Thomaskantor, with a recommendation by Telemann. However, the most interesting thing about this cantata is that we have here a version which Telemann may have performed in Hamburg in the year it was written. Reipsch suggests that Telemann, who was already at an advanced age, was willing to prepare for the end of his activities in Hamburg and - considering his godson as a worthy successor - had asked Emanuel to compose a cantata for performance in Hamburg. There can be no doubt that he indeed did perform it, as he included two chorale harmonizations of his own and replaced Emanuel's chorale at the end by another from his own pen. Hermann Max recorded the original version in 1984, but the Telemann version appears here on disc for the first time. The instrumental scoring reflects the festive character of a piece for Easter: three trumpets and timpani, pairs of transverse flutes and oboes, plus strings and bc. The cantata opens with a dictum for choir; the text is from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (vs 14): "God raised the Lord and will also raise us by His power". Next follows a chorale setting by Telemann, and then we hear a recitative, accompagnato and arioso for bass, followed by a bass aria, which is a song of praise. Another chorale follows, and then soprano and tenor sing another sequence of recitative, accompagnato and arioso. The former has an aria, and the cantata closes with another chorale setting. In the soprano aria the A and B part are strongly different in Affekt.

When Carl Philipp Emanuel took up his duties as director musices in Hamburg, he needed music to be performed during the services in the main churches. As he had not been active as a composer of sacred music before, there was little to fall back on. This explains why he turned to Georg Michael Telemann, Georg Philipp's grandson, who for some time had taken over his grandfather's job until Emanuel arrived. It is documented that Bach borrowed some sacred works, among them a piece for Ascension Day, whose text was written by Daniel Schiebeler. Two pieces in Telemann's oeuvre for this feast with a text by Schiebeler are known. It is possible that the one Bach had borrowed is the cantata recorded here: Er neigte den Himmel. It dates from 1762 and is scored for four voices, three trumpets and timpani, oboe, strings and bc. In the opening chorus the tutti, which represent a 'choir of angels', are split into two groups, which both sing separately and then join on the words: "Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!" The recitatives and arias are allocated to allegorical characters: The Christian (bass), Joy (soprano), Faith (alto) and Devotion (tenor). The former and the latter have one aria each, the soprano and alto sing a duet.

The disc opens with a cantata for Easter by Telemann, Trauret, ihr Himmel, which is also an interesting case. Telemann stood in contact with various composers of the next generation, among them several of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's colleagues in Berlin. One of them was Johann Friedrich Agricola who from 1751 to 1759 acted as Hofkapellmeister to Frederick the Great. Telemann sent him sacred works from his pen, and one of them was this cantata. Its parts landed in the library of the Berlin Sing-Akademie. Just as in the cantata for Ascension Day the opening chorus is for two choirs with contrasting material. The first choir opens with "Grieve, ye heavens! Weep, o earth! The friend of man is no more!". The second choir then sings: "He lives! Sing to Him, o ye his brothers!" This cantata focuses on Jesus' resurrection, but reminds the listener of the events on Good Friday (like the famous chorale Christ lag in Todesbanden). This happens, for instance, in the opening of the bass accompagnato: "He died. Wrapped in darkness, the sun hid its face (...)". This is followed by a paraphrase of the events on Easter morning. After an aria for alto the tutti sing a chorale: "O death, now where is thy sting?" The next recitative again opens with a reference to the Cross. In his aria the tenor is accompanied by trumpets and timpani, alongside strings and bc. The last aria is for soprano, with two transverse flutes and strings: "Let me enjoy the bliss, O God the reconciler (...)."

The two remaining pieces are settings of a text which is connected to Pentecost: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people, and kindle the fire of your love in them". However, these pieces were not written for this feast, but for the inauguration of preachers. A number of such works by Telemann and Bach are known. They usually take the form of a cantata, with choruses, recitatives and arias. They consisted of two parts, performed before and after the sermon. The two settings included here, which have their origin in a medieval antiphon, were performed immediately after the sermon, before the second part of the cantata. They date from around 1756 and from 1760 respectively. The scoring is the same: four voices, three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings and bc. In TWV 3,83 the vocal parts are divided into solo and tutti sections; the second section is fugal. TWV 3,84 omits any solo episodes. It is documented that Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach regularly performed the latter setting by his predecessor.

These pieces were performed live during the Telemann Festtage in Magdeburg in 2014; they appear on disc for the first time. That in itself makes this disc an important addition to the discography. But the thread of the programme - the musical connection between the two composers - makes it even more important and very interesting from a historical point of view. Notable is also the similarity in scoring between the three cantatas and the two antiphon settings, especially the inclusion of parts for three trumpets and timpani. It seems to me that the use of three trumpets is probably no coincidence and could well symbolize the Holy Trinity. Hermann Max is one of the main advocates of Telemann's vocal music, and one can hardly go wrong with his performances. As always the texts are clearly intelligible, and the performances of the tutti episodes are very transparent. Max often works with the same soloists, and these deliver pretty much ideal performances. The orchestra is also first class. One can leave it to Max to fully explore the contrasts within these cantatas.

In short, this is another impressive release of CPO, which has put so much effort in bringing the music of the two Hamburg masters to our attention. May many more recordings follow.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

Margot Oitzinger
Georg Poplutz
Matthias Vieweg
Rheinische Kantorei & Das Kleine Konzert

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