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10.2.15

Briefly Noted: Telemann's Cantatas

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G.P. Telemann, Festive Cantatas, M. Feuersinger, F. Vitzthum, K. Mertens, Collegium Vocale Siegen, Hannoversche Hofkapelle, U. Stötzel

(released on February 10, 2015)
Hänssler Classic CD98.047 | 58'04"
The story is guaranteed to get a laugh, that the Leipzig town council, when searching for its new Kantor in 1722, settled on Johann Sebastian Bach as its third choice, first offering the job to Georg Philipp Telemann and then to Christoph Graupner. Rather than seeing these events as short-sighted, however, we must see them as inevitable. Of course, Leipzig wanted Telemann, who had a proven track record as prolific and ultra-talented, not to mention by far the best credentials. Unfortunately for Leipzig, Hamburg had snapped up Telemann first, and there he was producing cantatas at a dizzying rate. Blessed with a stable work ethic and a healthy constitution, by the time he died Telemann had penned around 3,600 works, including some 1,750 cantatas of every conceivable type and for every sort of occasion. Leipzig had little hope of luring him away.

One can hear around one-tenth of Telemann's cantatas in modern recording, by a rough estimate. Three of them came to my ears in this new disc from conductor Ulrich Stötzel, the period-instrument ensemble Hannoversche Hofkapelle, and the Collegium Vocale Siegen: Der Herr lebet (for Easter Sunday), Ehr und Dank (Michaelmas, September 29), and Der Geist gibt Zeugnis (Pentecost). Of the three soloists, soprano Miriam Feuersinger has the most pleasing sound, although she is given relatively little music here, the one rather charming aria Hilf, dass ich auch. The choral sound is not always as balanced or in tune as it could be, but these performances generally offer a pleasing way to learn about Telemann's cantatas. Although Telemann sometimes simply repeats the opening choral movement by way of concluding a cantata, there are beautiful discoveries, like the striking mezzo-soprano aria Wer bin ich? from the Pentecost cantata.

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