Notes and Editorial Reviews
Daniel Delivered from the Lion’s Den
Michael Schneider, cond; Annemei Blessing-Leyhausen (
); Annegret Kleindopf (
); Laurie Revial (
); Kai Wessel (
); Julian Prégardien (
); Ekkehard Abele (
Stephan Schreckenberger (
); La Stagione Frankfurt (period instruments)
cpo 777 397 (69:42
Text and Translation)
During the 1730–31 liturgical year, Telemann created a cycle of oratorios. For the feast of St. Michael in 1731, Telemann’s contribution was the oratorio
Daniel Delivered from the Lion’s Den
(“Der aus der Löwengrube errettete Daniel”), first performed at St. Peter’s Church in Hamburg on September 29. This work has only recently been definitively identified as the work of Telemann. The surviving copies, which probably date from after Telemann’s death, identify the oratorio as the work of Handel, despite a complete difference in style between Handel’s and Telemann’s oratorios.
The surviving Hamburg music written for the feast of St. Michael is martial in nature, and Telemann’s oratorio follows this tradition. In its first part, three arias or choruses are accompanied by trumpet and drums. The second part contains music of a more contemplative and consolatory nature. The music is on a very high level throughout.
The libretto follows chapter 6 of the Book of Daniel closely. King Darius has decreed that all of his subjects shall worship him alone as a deity on pain of death. Daniel, with faith in the Hebrew God, defies this order. The Persian Prince Arbaces denounces him to the King and demands that Daniel be placed in the lions’ den. The King tries to avoid sacrificing his friend and confidant, but Arbaces insists that the King is not above his own laws. Daniel comforts the King with the beautiful aria “Ach seufze nicht,” and goes confidently into the lions’ den. The King, returning to the den the next day, is surprised and relieved to find Daniel still alive. Daniel tells him that an angel calmed the lions and saved him from death. Darius condemns Arbaces and the other accusers to the lions’ den and decrees that his subjects shall regard “Daniel’s God with reverent awe.” The characters represented include humans (Daniel, Darius, Arbaces) and allegorical figures (Joy, truthful Souls, Courage).
Michael Schneider leads a performance that brings this little gem to life. Nothing is rushed; the orchestra, of the same size as is known to have performed in Hamburg’s churches at the time, is expert. All of the soloists are adept at the often-florid music; they create believable characters, and they interact dramatically in recitatives. The soloists band together for the choruses, representing angels, friends of Daniel, Persian accusers of Daniel, and potentates of Darius’s court. I would have preferred a different Daniel to Kai Wessel, who sings well but whose voice is not one of my favorites.
This is prime Telemann at the highest level, well recorded. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Ron Salemi
The music on this beautifully sung and played CD is part of CPO's project, 'Musica Sacra Hamburgensis 1600-1800'. As much as anything, this celebrates the post of city church director in Hamburg over those two centuries; it features the music of those composers who held the post - including Telemann.
Until recently, the oratorio
Der aus der Löwengrube errette Daniel (
Daniel delivered from the lion's den) was rarely associated with Telemann. One reason for that was its incorrect ascription to Handel, despite at least two documents which attest unambiguously to its real authorship. It's now clear that the piece was first performed as part of the annual church cycle on 29 September 1730/31, for the feast of St Michael; it was composed to a libretto by Albrecht Jacob Zell (1701-1754).
Der aus der Löwengrube errette Daniel has many operatic qualities. This must have been somewhat contentious for Telemann. He was still writing operas; but opera was a genre frowned upon by the city authorities. The devotional aspects of this work, though, mean that it
is an oratorio and not an opera - despite the inclusion of many aspects of the latter… attention to character, some dramatic dialogue and choral writing, as well as frequent short commentaries on the action - the chorus's intervention in the recitative,
Verräter seht ihr nun [tr.31], for example.
Above all, it's the setting of a Biblical theme - and a martial one at that - which confers upon
Der aus der Löwengrube errette Daniel its most prominent theological stamp. But there is much human interest: we really care about Daniel's fate. We easily identify with a strong figure determined to face adversity rather than capitulate to a doctrine to which it is impossible to subscribe. Indeed, we can readily respond to the joyous outcome of Daniel's courage and his eventual deliverance. There is a welcome absence of rhetoric in both music and text, though, such that the outcome is not a forgone conclusion. The final chorus, for example (
Herr Gott, wir loben Dir [tr.36]) is almost understated. Certainly far from overblown. There is a distinctly subdued confidence, rather than anything triumphant, which makes the point that the 'right stance' will always be rewarded - a position that must surely have pleased the Hamburg establishment's strong Lutheran spirit.
If anything, the singers tend to underplay the triumph almost to the point of treating it as a matter of course. Though they never render it either mundane or matter of fact. One almost expects just a little more 'pep'. The soloists are also somewhat restrained. Kai Wessel (Daniel) and Laurie Reviol (Arbaces) stand out, nevertheless, as totally in command of roles which they perform tidily and in contained ways. La Stagione Frankfurt plays something of a supporting role - equally careful and precise; the trumpets have a particularly important place in underpinning the military flavour of the action.
The CD comes with a useful booklet in English and French as well as German. The acoustic is a little lacking in reverberation and atmosphere. Only if you have come to expect somewhat more lively and interpretation-rich performances of Telemann's vocal music will you find this restraint anything other than appropriate, given the expectations placed upon the composer by his pious patrons. As it is, be assured that Schneider's is an appropriate way to perform this intriguing oratorio. His interpretation deserves close attention. The performers explore the motives, fears and joy of their characters as characters and not as 'types'. If we're truly prepared to enjoy such an unknown work, this is just right. Look into this if you like the less well-lit corners of Baroque choral music; or if you respond to persuasive and contained singing and playing by specialists in music of the period.
-- Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Der aus der Löwengrube erettete Daniel by Georg Philipp Telemann
Annegret Kleindopf (Soprano),
Ekkehard Abele (Bass),
Jörn Lindemann (Tenor),
Kai Wessel (Countertenor),
Julian Prégardien (Tenor),
Annemei Blessing Leyhausen (Soprano),
Laurie Reviol (Soprano),
Stephan Schreckenberger (Bass)
La Stagione Frankfurt
Written: 1731; Hamburg, Germany
Length: 69 Minutes 42 Secs.
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