Telemann: Reformations-Oratorium 1755

Regula Mühlemann, Daniel Johannsen, Benjamin Appl, Stephan MacLeod STBarB, Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Reinhard Goebel
60:24
Sony Classics 8 89853 73872 4

As everyone knows, 2017 marks a big anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation; what non-specialists may not realise is that that critical event is marked every year within the Lutheran church. It will come as no surprise, then, that special works were created especially throughout the baroque period to celebrate the festival, and that Telemann was among the most prolific of composers. This world premiere recording presents an oratorio from 1755 which intersperses recitatives and arias for four allegorical figures (Peace, Devotion, Religion and History, in descending order of voice range) with hymns and choruses. The recording provoked something of a philosophical discussion in my mind, since I enjoyed the singing a lot (especially the soloists), and I loved the music and wondered at the still fertile and creative mind of its septuagenarian composer, and yet the modern instruments just sounded so inappropriate, especially in recitatives where half the time I could not even work out what the conductor was striving for by asking the players of whichever instruments they were (yes, even my keen ears struggled to identify them on occasion!) to produce the sounds they did… Given a “proper baroque band”, there is some ravishing music here that could easily make its way into standard repertoire. While I honestly believe that all music should be available to all people, I also wonder if there is seriously no repertoire that these particular forces could more appropriately engage with.

Brian Clark