Notes and Editorial Reviews
Funeral Music for Emperor Karl VII,
Ich hoffete aufs Licht,
Michael Schneider, cond; Gabriele Hierdeis, Annegret Kleindopf (sop); Dmitry Egorov (ct); Ulrike Anderen (alt); Georg Poplutz, Benjamin Kirchner (ten); Nils Cooper, Stepha Schreckenberger (bs); La Stagione Frankfurt (period instruments)
CPO 777 603-2 (62:53
Text and Translation)
Here is another of what seems like a flurry of Georg Philipp
Telemann’s occasional music composed for the city of Hamburg during his long tenure there. In 1745 the Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation, Karl VII, died in Vienna. Since Austria and Prussia were in the middle of both the Silesian War and the War of the Austrian Succession, Karl, the erstwhile non-Hapsburg Elector of Bavaria, had seemed a decent compromise, and even though Hamburg was technically not part of the empire, it was a protected city due to its strategic importance as a northern port not dominated by archenemy Prussia. Therefore the city father felt obligated to celebrate Imperial events, and Telemann was certainly willing to oblige. The text chosen was by the chief pastor of St. Catherine’s Church, Joachim Zimmermann, and Telemann wrote the work in his usual manner, that is, quickly and efficiently.
The work is written in oratorio fashion in two parts based upon a combination of quotations from the Bible, newly written poetry, and an appropriate selection of chorales, all part and parcel of the normal Hamburg sacred musical text. For the composer, this was not extraordinary, but the convoluted performance circumstances, wherein the work was mixed in with normal church services, required him to hire extra musicians and to make do with a small
of only eight singers, who performed both solo and choral roles. The music itself is vintage Telemann on the cusp of
and with hints of the Baroque peeking through. Throughout the work are several “dicta,” commentaries and prayers, which Telemann often sets in homophonic fashion. The second, “Die Güte des Herrn,” has a stern set of dotted rhythms in the strings that make the sometimes strange harmonic modulations more apparent, while the chorale tunes are both normal four-part settings or, as in “Uns lässet zwar,” suddenly appear from within the recitative, here to a continuo line that begins to walk with a steady eighth-note pace. There are moments where Telemann’s use of the orchestra is masterly, such as the soft lyrical line for alto (with choral punctuations) “Lasst uns klagen” with the timpani beating a funereal comma even as the piece winds along in a major key. Telemann’s arias, such as “Die ihr auf unbekannte Wellen” with fits and starts, swirling strings, and clarion trumpets, or “Melde, gewognes Gerüchte,” which was reused in the oratorio
Tage des Gerichts
, are filled with the contrasting dynamics, rhythmic-motivic structures, and textures of the early
; indeed, they could all have been written by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Telemann’s successor some two decades later. Even the recitatives weave in and out of accompagnato, making the text flow together. The final chorus, “O du Volk vom teutschen Samen,” is a verse and refrain, and although there is a chorale-like cantus firmus for one of the verses, the expected counterpoint is missing entirely, making the work more intimate.
Michael Schneider’s direction keeps the tempos moving along and the performance crisp. The eight-member soloist-chorus sounds at times much larger, but the voices are equally adept at their solo numbers. Nils Cooper’s bass, in particular, has that nice, light German sound that I find particularly attractive in Telemann’s (and Bach’s) music. The recording is, as always with cpo, well staged and the sound clear. This is clearly a work that anyone who fancies Telemann ought to have in their collection, for it shows that the composer was talented and able to bridge styles, occasions, and requirements with ease.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
La Stagione Frankfurt with Michael Schneider have a good history of inspiring, original and stimulating performances of music from the High/Late Baroque period - particularly that of Telemann. Here they are again with that composer's
Trauermusic für Kaiser Karl VII [TVWV 4:13], 'Funeral music on the death of Emperor Charles VII'. The CD is part of CPO’s 'Musica sacra Hamburgensis 1600-1800' series; it's a rarity which has much to recommend it.
The emperor's death in 1745 was a significant event for (the citizens of) Hamburg … he had offered protection against a number of potential and actual enemies. Arrangements for formal and elaborate ceremonies marking his death were expedited quickly. So what we have on this CD is music originally written for a specific occasion in the middle of the north German eighteenth century. But its beauty, sobriety and delicate restraint can speak to us now. Especially when performers as experienced and insightful expose and embrace the idiom of Telemann so well.
The Hamburg City Council commissioned Telemann to write funeral music to texts by Joachim Johann Zimmermann (1710-1767), who had already proved himself with equivalents for the emperor's own coronation and his predecessor's funeral. What we have here is an amalgam of free poetry, Biblical material and hymns. It's divided into two parts of roughly equal length - one to be performed either side of a sermon. Its tone is as much about expressing concern for an uncertain future as a panegyric on the dear departed.
Somehow Telemann conveys the anguish relating to the threat which an uncertain future held as much as the grief at the emperor's death. He dos this not by writing music that's tentative or insipid. Instead this is achieved through using modulations of key and trills, specific voice and instrument combinations and musical phrasing that would perhaps indicate impatience in other contexts. Here they are somewhat unsettling … the soprano recitative,
Du bleibst indessen [tr. 20], for instance. The contradiction between words ("you are constant") and melodic and textural wavering is an odd one; but it nevertheless successfully adds to the unpredictability of the situation.
Several aspects of the music stand out: the use of a rather prominent drum at key moments - recorded very forward; and some striking chromatic passages - in the
Dictum for chorus,
Meine Harfe ist [tr.13], for example. Instrumentation is interesting: muted, shady and reserved; not at all grand nor yet lugubrious. La Stagione Frankfurt respects and breathes full life into this highly nuanced set of atmospheres and allusive writing. They are aided by the variety of compositional forms - arias of various types, chorales, recitatives and choral interpositions - which Telemann uses. Rarely do such contrasts really call for flourishes. When they do come - as in the short choral
Ach daß müssen [tr 25] - Schneider and his forces afford them all the more impact. Otherwise one is struck by the level, even-tempered, though no less vigorous and definite pace and 'attack' delivered by soloists, choir and instrumentalists.
The mildness and sense of having all expression, developmental lines and partnerships between text and music well within these musicians' grasp is matched by a quiet and purposeful energy throughout this hour long performance. There are single memorable moments - the final chorus,
Du Volk [tr. 29], for instance. But one is left with a more general feeling of music written for an occasion about which we cannot possibly have the strength of sentiment that contemporaries evidently did. Yet this touches us with its graceful observance of the complex public feelings and slightly suppressed hope for the future. This, by its very nature is more generalised, in music that's thoughtful, yet almost extrovert.
The booklet that comes with the CD contains much useful background information, the text in German and English, and details of the performers - though it is set in an almost impossibly small font size. The acoustic is clear and aids our understanding of the equally clean and unruffled articulation of the text by the eight soloists of La Stagione Frankfurt.
Each issue in the series, 'Musica sacra Hamburgensis 1600-1800', has been worth a close look.
Ich hoffete aufs Licht is no exception. Schneider and his group make music with real style; yet never overstate their case. A rarely-heard work from Telemann's canon, of which there is no other recording available, this may not be ground-breaking Baroque at its unique best. Even so, it has a lot going for it.
-- Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Ich hoffete aufs Licht: Trauermusik für Karl VII, TV 4 no 13 by Georg Philipp Telemann
Stephan Schreckenberger (Bass),
Benjamin Kirchner (Voice),
Annegret Kleindopf (Soprano),
Dmitry Egorov (Voice),
Gabriele Hierdeis (Soprano),
Ulrike Andersen (Alto),
Georg Poplutz (Tenor)
La Stagione Frankfurt
Written: 1745; Hamburg, Germany
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