Wer ist der, so von Edom kömmt

Passion Oratorio
C. H. Graun, J. S. Bach, Telemann
[Gesine] Adler, [Klaudia] Zeiner, [Tobias] Hunger, [Tobias] Berndt, Concerto Vocale, Sächsisches Barockorchester Leipzig, Gotthold Schwarz
cpo 555 270-2
115:58 (2 CDs in a single case)

The booklet that accompanies this set includes a well-argued essay by Bach expert Andreas Glöckner on the genesis and formation of this intriguing pasticcio; essentially it is Graun’s Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld (dating from c. 1730), the first half preceded by two extracts from the Telemann cantata that gives the release its title, and the second half padded out by music which may or may not be by J. S. Bach. This seems to have been the driving force behind the project – it is such a shame that, even in 2019, we need the name of “a great composer” to justify a recording of Graun’s very fine work.

Pretty much for the first time ever, I must confess myself disappointed by the performance. The orchestra (lush double woodwinds, 33211 strings with just organ!) is very fine with some lovely contributions and the tenor and bass soloists are in a different class to the other singers. This is rather naive music; the complexities of the baroque are largely receding and being replaced with a slower harmonic rhythm – the focus has shifted to cantabile melodies and a lightness of touch is required. I understand that it is difficult for some singers to ease off without losing form, so the soprano and alto (whom I have heard to great effect elsewhere) have my sympathy. Even more troubling, though, was the choir – tuning is a problem at various points, as is ensemble. I had to re-listen several times just in case my ears were having an off day, but no.

If there is one reason to buy this set, it would have to be the glorious singing of Tobias Hunger – his floated high notes are out of this world.

Brian Clark