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21.8.06

Dip Your Ears, No. 69

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G. P. Telemann, Komm Geist des Herrn, L. Rémy et al.
I always appreciate good Telemann and am happy when record companies explore his vast output. While Archiv does a good job covering his orchestral output, no other company does him as proud as cpo, which not only focuses on orchestral and chamber music but has also done a particularly notable job in opening his choral works to our ears. They do so, also, in their latest issue, "Komm, Geist des Herrn" (released on July 25th), a title the CD takes from the longest of three featured late cantatas of Telemann’s.

Stemming from the last decade of his life (1681-1767), this cantata, “Kaum wag ich es,” and “Er kam, lobsingt ihm” are precious works that allow us to understand (if not agree with) the opinion at the time, that Telemann was a greater composer than Bach. He was certainly more prolific than Bach (hard to believe, already) and perhaps as a consequence not quite as consistent in the quality of his output. But if forced to do so, I could come up with any number of Bach cantatas that I find less satisfying than “Komm, Geist des Herrn,” set to a text by Friedrich Gottlieb Kloppstock in turn based on the venerable Luther text “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott.”

For four soloists and string orchestra enriched with three trumpets, timpani, and oboes, this is festive music that sounds alive, sprightly even (noteworthy coming from a nearly 80-year-old composer), and most importantly: it is superbly performed. One would hope that the specialists of the Telemannisches Collegium Michaelstein under Ludger Rémy would know how to perform this music well. They do and leave nothing to be desired. But the soloists are the real delight and perhaps surprisingly so. Too many intriguing recordings of semi-obscure works are let down by soloists that are notably of second rank. Not here, where Dorothee Mields (soprano), Elisabeth Graf (alto), Knut Schoch (tenor), and Ekkehard Abele (bass) perform impeccably.

To compare to Bach again, I have heard more recognizable names in notable cantata projects (Koopman, Gardiner, Suzuki) sing less pleasingly. Any Baroque vocal recording could benefit from so clear and accurate a soprano as Mrs. Mields’. (Although I myself had never heard of her before, this is apparently not a revelation: Mazaaki Suzuki, Philippe Herreweghe, Ivor Bolton, and Gustav Leonhardt have all worked and recorded with her.) The young Ekkehard Abele is an equal joy to listen to, but then mentioning two soloists seems unfair to tenor Schoch (who, incredibly, has 80 recordings to his name) and alto Graf, whose contributions are not lesser.

This exploration of the late cantatas by Telemann is a wonderful addition to the collection of anyone who already loves Bach cantatas or Telemann’s work and wants to go beyond the Tafelmusik, Violin Concertos, and Paris Quartets. Happily recommended.

cpo 777 064-2

5 comments:

DougieFresh said...

Hi JFL. What an inviting Telemann review. Thanks! I'm curious if you have recording suggestions for the Telemann newbie. Any particular recordings you love of Tafelmusik, Violin Concertos or Paris Quartets? Also, any suggestions on where to start? Finally, I'm eager to learn more about Bach. Might you have a favorite book or two about his life and/or his music? Many, many thanks.

DougieFresh said...

Hi JFL. What an inviting Telemann review. Thanks! I'm curious if you have recording suggestions for the Telemann newbie. Any particular recordings you love of Tafelmusik, Violin Concertos or Paris Quartets? Also, any suggestions on where to start? Finally, I'm eager to learn more about Bach. Might you have a favorite book or two about his life and/or his music? Many, many thanks. DG

Ariadne said...

As a singer, I *love* Telemann.

jfl said...

DG, Telemann's "Tafelmusik" is fantastic music - but the complete set runs to three, four discs. Excerpts might be permissible in this case. :)
Violin Concertos are excellent (as is the famed Viola Concerto) - and even if my favorite recording (Iona Brown, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields) is oop, the cpo recording with Wallfisch is very good, too. Finally, the "Hamburger Ebb & Flut" (Telemann's "Water Musik") charms without fail: Either in the new recording (Dip Your Ears No. 65) or the Archiv recording of the same work. (Link on the same review.)

DougieFresh said...

Thanks jfl.