Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cantatas: Die Gnadentüre steht dir offen,
Herr, erhöre meine Stimme,
Ach Herr, lehr uns bedenken,
Overture in D,
Deutschland grünt und blüht im Frieden,
TWV 12:1: Largo.
Hamburger Ebb und Fluth, “Der stürmande Aeolus”
Veggetti, cond; Christian Hilz (bs); Il Pinzimonio Vocale; Cordia Ens
BRILLIANT 93940 (61:40
Text and Translation)
Brilliant Classics is a bit of an upstart in terms of record labels, often trying to out-Naxos Naxos, the original budget label that offered low-cost recordings using oddball artists and orchestras. Of course, in the process of acquiring a musical empire, Naxos has progressed beyond this for the most part, but its philosophy that there are significant performers, both individual and ensembles, out there who can produce excellent results at a fraction of the cost still applies. Moreover, Brilliant Classics, originally an indie label that could be found in Dutch supermarkets with complete cantatas of Bach or the complete works of Mozart, has begun to emerge in the classical market as a significant player. The reason for this potted commentary is that this disc offers for the first time a premiere recording of three Telemann cantatas that use the bass-baritone rather than the more common tenor or soprano as the soloist. Of course, with Telemann, the concept of having a premiere recording is not a vain one, with around 2,000 of these things to play with, but this disc is a nice program of works that not only shows Telemann at his most inventive, it also creates a vehicle for baritone Christian Hilz to explore vocal compositions alongside instrumental works, all performed by a new (to me) period-instrument ensemble, the Ensemble Cordia, founded by cellist Stefano Veggetti.
The works on this disc are a bit of a mixed bag. The program begins with one of Telemann’s last pieces, a seven-movement suite written in 1765 for Count Ludwig VIII of Hesse-Darmstadt, one of his erstwhile patrons. It is scored for an early-Classical or late-Baroque orchestra (take your pick) of a pair of oboes, two horns, and strings, and in typical Telemann fashion consists of some rather descriptive movements beyond the normal French overture; Réjouissance, Carillon, and Tintamare. Here one can find Telemann at his schizophrenic best; the Overture and final two movements are decidedly old-fashioned Baroque pieces, while the Plainte, with its lyrical line and homophonic accompaniment, seems more similar to C. P. E. Bach. He is playing with both his patron and his audience, saying in effect that one should never pigeonhole him into any specific style or period. The same sort of duality can be found in the Largo from the serenata
Deutschland grünt und blüht im Frieden
, with a limpid oboe solo that simply drips horticultural allusions. Finally, the rousing string perpetual motion of the movement from the popular water music
Hamburger Ebb und Fluth
depicts the raging Aeolus with its skirling strings and fast figuration. The real gems, however, are the three cantatas, one of which, “Herr, erhöre meine Stimme,” is a solo cantata, while the other two are more traditional with four-part chorales that open and close them like bookends. The first is one of Telemann’s later works and fairly conventional, though one can find the nice rhythmic alteration of duple and triple motives in the first aria. The coloratura is sedate, indicating that this work, at least, was not really intended as a
tour de force
for the singer, but rather part of a set for everyday use. It is the second work, however, that shows the composer at his cleverest. Although the booklet notes seem to imply that this is an early cantata from about 1722, the musical style in my opinion points to a later date. The first aria, “Herr! Erhöre meine Stimme,” is quite thoroughly
, with its rhythmic and dynamic alterations, the homophonic texture, and the rather more classical line. But it is the second movement, a Pater Noster (in German) where the words of the prayer are intoned in solemn chant manner above a walking bass, followed by recitative commentary for each line, that Telemann reaches his dramatic potential. This would not be out of place in Graun but is completely foreign to the Baroque style. Indeed, the drama of this central movement hides the fact that the final aria, “Ja, ja, das wirst du tun,” is in a rather sprightly dance rhythm, something that might have caused an eyebrow or two to be raised at the time.
Stefano Veggetti keeps his early-music group moving along with good solid tempos and nicely detailed and nuanced playing. In the Overture, the horns are raucous, as befitting the hunting theme of its dedicatee, while elsewhere they are suitably focused on the high part writing. The strings can sound a bit tinny at times, particularly in the final cantata, but this is not too distracting. Christian Hilz’s transparent baritone is the real winner here. He is clearly one of the protégés of the style pioneered by Max von Egmont in the old Bach series. The tone is light and facile, the pitches are secure, and the coloratura, what there is of it, is handled with ease and ability. If you want to hear something unusual, with a fine performance by both singer and ensemble that pretty much represents what Telemann might have had in mind, you can’t miss with this recording. Here’s to hoping that Brilliant Classics embarks upon many more in this vein.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Die Gnadentüre stehet offen, TV 1 no 339 by Georg Philipp Telemann
Christian Hilz (Baritone)
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