Inauguration Cantatas for Hamburg and Altona
barockwerk hamburg, Ira Hochman
cpo 555 255-2
The cpo label hasn’t sat on its laurels as one of the world’s top labels bringing some quite excellent and extraordinary music to our ears, whilst exploring lesser-known corners of lesser-known composers’ works. Over the last few years we have seen a wonderful string of high quality recordings leading us back the highly versatile baroque master Telemann’s output, often centred around his considerable and multifarious duties in and around Hamburg.
This recording starts with the consecration work for the smaller St. Job Hospital Church TVWV2:5 that gives the disc its title, and was intended for performance on the 16th February 1745; however, this piece was officially cancelled on the death of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VII,* which demanded a four-week period of mourning, prohibiting any polyphonic music or organ playing! So this work was duely consigned to a dusty slumber on a shelf until Jürgen Neubacher discovered the manuscript and Wolfgang Hirschmann identified its purpose in 2001. The work dispenses with the usual trumpets and drums (which would have been overpowering in the original, tiny performance space) and uses a very modest instrumentation (flute, oboe, violins and continuo). We should never, however, underestimate these sparse forces in masterful hands! The sheer scope and imaginative handling of the text brings out some quite incredible melodic twists and turns, with music that seems to presage the vintage style of the later oratorios. The noble tone and exquisite vocal contours of the Aria a2 “Vereinigte Seufzer” (Track 4) sweeps you away to another place; so too, the sensational, operatic writing in the soprano aria “Der Himmel, die Erde, die Menschen, die Tempel” (Track 6); equally so the tender, disarming beauty of “Höre, Vater, deine Kinder” (Track 9). If asked to name the performers at a blind listening, you’d swear it was probably Hermann Max and Co; not so – Barockwerk under Ira Hochman and these superb soloists are in full artistic flow, shaking the dust off some amazing works.
The second offering, “Geschlagene Pauken, auf!” (Strike up, ye thundrous drums) TVWV13:14, was written as a festive piece for the Royal Academic Latin school (Christianeum) in Altona in 1744. Nearly a dozen of these “festive” works for Altona between 1741 and 1764 have now been identified. As the title to this work openly suggests, trumpets and drums come right to the fore! The exuberant flourishes of celebratory music are carried over to the final aria a4 “Erfülle die Hoffnung”.
Finally, we have a modest, compact motet written as a school exam piece in 1758 for the Johanneum, Hamburg’s Latin school. It has a sprightly finish to round off its slender four minutes.
The first two works presented here are quite revelatory and display more glistening strings attached to the giant golden bow which arches across the years of Telemann’s highly productive tenure in Hamburg. These excellent musical forces and soloists under Ira Hochman will hopefully be back to us soon with more scintillating gems of baroquery!
* Telemann’s superb funeral music for Charles VII (TVWV4:13) is found on cpo 777 603-2