Er heißet Wunderbar!

Barokkanerne, directed by Alfredo Bernardini

This is a beautiful CD combining cantatas by three of the candidates for the vacant Thomascantorate with a concerto by a fourth. The one-to-a-part singing lifts the music by Fasch and Graupner to a whole new level when compared to performances by choirs who have hitherto been the only ones to champion the repertoire, especially with four such skilled singers in fine voice and instrumental partners whose lightness of touch elevates the sound even more. Cecilia Bernardini’s rendition of Telemann’s little-played Concerto in E minor with two obbligato oboes is very impressive – I swear she must use olive oil on her bow rather than resin, so even and effortless do the pyrotechnics for both hands sound (rather like a swan, serenely gliding by frantically paddling out of sight!) “Schwingt freudig euch empor” is one of my favourite Bach cantatas and this performance is right up there amongst the best I have heard.

All the more frustrating therefore to read “For who has heard of Graupner, or of Fasch, and do we in hindsight really take the nimble multi-arted Telemann all that seriously?” in the booklet notes. Such opinions are fine, but actually printing them in a booklet like this undermines years and years of work to restore these composers’ reputations even to public notice at all. And even if the note writer doesn’t have much respect, Herr Bach most certainly did, so perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned there.

And then there is “The [Fasch] cantata’s brevity (perhaps a world record here) may suggest that the performances in Zerbst were not a significant part of the service”… First, the piece in question survives in a secondary source so who is to know what had happened to it in transmission? Secondly, a letter Fasch wrote in 1752 reveals that he had been told that music was taking up too much of the services so he had to halve the length of the figural music – and in those days you did as you were told. Besides, on a major church feast, the service also included a Missa brevis with Credo, so pretty much the equivalent of three cantatas in one sitting. Not to mention a Te Deum with “unter Paucken und Trompeten”. A little knowledge is, indeed, a dangerous thing – maybe someone who actually knows about the music might be asked to contribute their next booklet essay.

Brian Clark

One reply on “Er heißet Wunderbar!”

I did honestly think that most of the vexing, “unenlightened” quibbling and one-upmanship regards the Leipzig post had been put to bed! Seems periodically there will be odd little side-swipes, that quite frankly have been countered by many advancements in our understanding of these highly individualistic composers, and by many, many recordings to their names, aiding our listening and musicological knowledge! Do we have to remind everyone about the “Spitta-Schweitzer” type of own goals?? Also that Bach copied, and yes “borrowed” some material from Telemann. A real missed opportunity to actually include a cantata by the latter! This all said, beyond the defamatory twaddle, the samples I’ve heard are really quite excellent!

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