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


Telemann: Aller Augen warten auf dich

Sabine Goetz, Marnix De Cat, Philippe Gagné, Werner Van Mechelen SATB, Es Tempore, Mannheimer Hofkapelle, Florian Heyerick
cpo 555 083-2
TVWV 1: 66, 816, 929, 1326

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he long and productive, artistic and musical working relationship between Telemann and the famous poet, theologian, preacher Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756) great innovator of the cantata as we know it, probably began sometime before or around 1705 and continued right up to the composer’s busy mid Hamburg years. It was to prove extremely fruitful, yielding no less than five major cycles (“Jahrgänge” in German), each with distinctive, defining qualities and artistic parameters.

Before and after these known cycles of cantata, some collaborations were undertaken, like the seven cantatas from Neumeister’s early Geistliche Cantaten  of circa 1705, (Leipzig, Sorau). The works featured on this CD step over the first major cycle of 1710/11 Geistliches Singen und Spielen, and the so-called “French” cycle, the Geistliche Poesien  of 1714/15, and focus on the second Frankfurt cycle from Neumeister, termed “Concertizing” or “Italian cycle 1716/17, 1720. This double dating is explained by the fact Neumeister wasn’t able, due probably to commitments in Hamburg where he worked from 1715 at the famous St Jacobi church, to complete the full year’s texts. The 1716/17 texts run from the first Sunday in Advent to the 3rd day of Whitsun (major feasts in the Lutheran calendar had three days of celebrations). The texts for the remainder of the cycle as set by Telemann in 1720 were written by Telemann himself, Gottfried Simonis and the infamous “anon”.

My first tiny niggle with this recording, after all this complexity, is why play the works out of liturgical sequence, let alone out of chronological order? Unless they were performed thus, back to front in the live concert? Nevertheless, the recording opens with one of the 1720 cantatas, with the finely articulated and nuanced Dictum, “Aller Augen warten auf dich”, tight and concise singing that quickly grabs your attention, underpinned by the alert and nimble Mannheimer Hofkapelle, whose contributions never wane from admirable standards, and their trumpet player Fruzsina Hara in the Easter work TVWV1:816 captures the pervading jubilant tone perfectly. The soprano is lyrical, the tenor excellent, the alto and bass both had moments of finely measured singing, yet just occasionally lacked conviction. All the while, one is aware of the difficult lines woven into these cantatas, just try saying the words they have to sing on track 14! There are some very fine moments, but I await some, broader sweeps through the two sections of this cycle. Some cantatas from it have already been on CD, yet some editions await with latent potential, including the Estomihi work TVWV1:1316 from Prima la musica!

Finally, there are some tiny anomalies in the translated text (e. g., O welches Freudenfest!, track15) and there are other things I might have rendered differently; but the disc is another welcome addition to cpo’s well-laden Telemann flagship. Might there have been room to have one more work aboard?

David Bellinger

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