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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Advent Cantatas"

Dir: Gudrun Sidonie Otto

rec: Dec 1, 2013 & Sept 6, 2015* (live), Magdeburg, Gesellschaftshaus (Schinkelsaal)
CPO - 777 955-2 (© 2016) (53'42")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

For the 1st Sunday of Advent (TWV 1,1233a) (So komm denn auch, mein Heil, mein Lebenc; Schon auf Erden muss das Herz ein Himmel werdena); For the 2nd Sunday of Advent (TWV 1,114a) (Heult, verruchte Sündenknechtea; Ich freue mich auf jenen Tagc); For the 3rd Sunday of Advent (TWV 1,1657a) (Ach, so lass von mir dich findena; Erwecke dich, mein ganzes Herzea); For the 4th Sunday of Advent (TWV 1,1267a) (Flüchtige Schätze! zeitliches Leidenc; Freudig will ich sprechenc); For the 1st Day of Christmas (TWV 1,203a) (Wie hoch bist du gestiegena; Entflammt nun in Liebe, vor heiliger Freudea); For the 2nd Day of Christmas (TWV 1,1580a) (Mächtiger Heiland!c; Besser, nie geborenc); For the 3rd Day of Christmas (TWV 1,79a) (Gott, dem nichts verborgen ista; Du allein, Jesu, sollst mir alles seinc); For the Sunday after Christmas (TWV 1,319a) (Jesu, bleib, wenn viele wallena; Will man meiner lachenc); For the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany (TWV 1,327a)* (Mein Freund ist meinb; Vorschmack süßer Himmelsfreudena)

Gudrun Sidonie Otto, sopranoa; David Erler, altob; Ingolf Seidel, baritonec; Christine Schwark, Caroline Kang*, cello; Michael Freimuth, lute, theorbo; Karl Nyhlin, gallichon*; Wolfgang Brunner, Aleksandra Grychtolik*, harpsichord, organ

Georg Philipp Telemann was the most prolific composer of his time. He contributed to every genre, and composed music for every possible scoring, from large-scale pieces for solo voices, choir and orchestra to fantasias for a single instrument without accompaniment. Among his vocal works are a large number of sacred cantatas, which were usually intended to be performed in churches. Composers connected their cantatas to the Sundays and feast-days of the ecclesiastical year. Telemann also wrote such cantatas, but as he in his instrumental music often had the amateurs of his days in mind, he took the unusual step to compose cantatas which could be used in church, but also in domestic surroundings. In 1626/27 he published two volumes of cantatas under the title Harmonischer Gottesdienst. In the first volume these were scored for a solo voice, either high or low, one melody instrument (recorder, transverse flute, oboe, violin) and basso continuo; in the second Telemann added a second melody instrument. These publications were highly successful and encouraged him to publish a sequel. In December 1726 he announced the appearance of a collection of sacred arias, which was to be published the next year: Auszug derjenigen musicalischen und auf die gewönlichen Evangelien gerichteten Arien, welche in den Hamburgischen Haupt-Kirchen durchs 1727. Jahr vor der Predigt aufgeführet werden bestehend aus einer Singe-Stimme nebst dem General-Basse (Extract of those musical arias, based on the standard gospels, which were performed in Hamburg's principal churches in the liturgical year 1726–27).

For this collection Telemann turned to cantatas, which he had performed in Hamburg since his accession to the office of director musices in 1721. Like in the Harmonischer Gottesdienst he followed the course of the ecclesiastical year. For every Sunday and feast-day he mostly extracted two arias, one for a high and one for a low voice. As most arias are scored for a solo voice and one or several instruments Telemann had some arranging to do. The omission of the melody instruments "was offset by the special handling of the bass lines, so that 'the other accompaniment will, it is hoped, not be missed'" (booklet). It means that the thematic material of the original instrumental part is included in the bass part. Telemann also abridged and arranged the ritornellos or omitted them entirely.

The soprano Gudrun Sidonie Otto performed a number of arias with her ensemble GSOConsort during two concerts in December 2013 and September 2015 respectively. The former is presented here, and as the time of the year suggests, all the arias are for Christmastide, from the first Sunday of Advent to the Sunday after Christmas. For this disc arias from a cantata for the second Sunday after Epiphany are added, which were performed during the 2015 concert. As was common practice the subjects of the arias are connected to the readings of the day.

For the first Sunday of Advent Telemann turned to Saget dem verzagten Herzen (TWV 1,1233) (recorded by Ludger Rémy; CPO, 1997). As Jesus's entrance as a baby into the world is interpreted as a prefiguration of his entry into Jerusalem shortly before his Passion (the subject of Palm Sunday), the narrative of this episode (Matthew 21, 1-9) is the gospel of the day. The first aria links up with it: "Come, my salvation, my life! Come to me, Thou most beauteous of the beautiful!" In the cantata the two arias are scored for tenor and alto respectively; here they are sung one octave higher or lower. The second Sunday of Advent also looks ahead to the end of the gospels, and especially to the subject of the second coming of Christ (Luke 21, 25-26). For this Sunday Bach composed his cantata Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! (BWV 70a). The tenor of that cantata is taken up here as well: "Howl, vile slaves of sin, for the Day of the Lord is nigh!"

Wie hoch bist du (TWV 1,203) is a cantata for the first day of Christmas. The gospel (Luke 2, 1-14) tells about the birth of Christ and the announcement of his birth to the shepherds by the angels, who sing a song of praise. The first aria refers to the fall of mankind: "How high you have risen from the nether depths, O son of man!" Jesus has come to his rescue: "He is coming to you, bearing that which can renew your beauty and assuage the angry God". The second aria refers to the "angelic choirs". Both arias are sung by the soprano. Traditionally the second day of Christmas was also St Stephen's Day, a remembrance of the first Christian martyr. The gospel of the day is either Luke 2, 15-20, about the shepherds at the crib, or Matthew 23, 34-39, where Jesus condemns Jerusalem for killing the prophets. In Mächtiger Heiland (TWV 1,1580) the second manifests itself most prominently. The first aria refers to the child in the crib: " Mighty Saviour, powerful Child of Wonder, who adopted the frailty of children". But in the second the fate of the temple, as announced by Jesus, is taken up: "Better never to have been born, than that the seat which God has chosen for His temple should fall into dire ruin."

The gospel of the Sunday after Christmas is the meeting of Simeon and Anna with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. Simeon refers to the latter's Passion, and that is what the first aria refers to: "My Jesus, when many waver and fall in anger at Thee, stay by my side at the Resurrection! (...) Grant eternity to him who delights in that which the world contemns!" The disc ends with two arias from Mein Freund ist mein (TWV 1,327). The gospel of the day is John 2, 1-11, which tells about the wedding in Cana. Cantatas for this Sunday often include references to the Song of Songs, such as in Bach's Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid (BWV 3). In this cantata by Telemann this reference is much stronger, such as in the first aria, which opens with the words: "My Friend is mine and I am His, who grazes among roses!" It continues in the second aria: "O foretaste of sweet heavenly joys, O mysterious bond of love! If the most beauteous of all should crown Himself on the day of His wedding, his dove shall take delight, for he loves and sweetly comforts her."

Through the prominent place of the ecclesiastical year in German sacred music the repertoire for Christmastide is not only nice and sweet. Listen, for instance, to the very dramatic aria 'Heult, verruchte Sündenknechte', which is pretty disturbing. Moreover, the choice of the readings of the various days of this part of the year makes sure, that Jesus's Passion is never far away. These factors result in a repertoire, which has much more depth than what was produced in other parts of Europe.

Once again this disc demonstrates that Telemann was a master in the setting of texts in an expressive and meaningful manner. No detail of the texts passes by unnoticed. These performances do them full justice. Gudrun Sidonie Otto has a beautiful voice, which is perfectly suited to this repertoire, and the text always comes off to maximum effect. Ingolf Seidel is an equal partner, who has a nice and flexible voice.

This is a disc which is different from most other releases for Christmastide. It is a worthwhile addition to any collection of music for this time of the year. Let's hope that some time the cantatas from which the arias are taken, will be available complete.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

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Gudrun Sidonie Otto

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