Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Georg Philipp Telemann: Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott

This release features five cantatas that Georg Philipp Telemann wrote for Reformation Sunday (more or less).

October 31 wasn't officially fixed as Reformation Day until the 19th century. Nevertheless, as early as 1617 many German states were using the first Sunday after October 31st to commemorate Luther's establishment of the protestant church.

Whether celebrating Reformation Sunday or the Feast of St. Michael (also around the same time), these five cantatas are fine examples of Telemann's sacred writing. The works span about fifty years, and development of Telemann's style is dramatic.

The earliest work, "Jesu wirst Du bald ersheinen" is a relatively sparse and conservative work from 1711. The use of cornet and trombone harkens back to the renaissance, giving the cantata an air of ancient timelessness. The basis of the work is a tune by Martin Luther, "Es ist gewisslich an der Zelt." The soloists' material is tuneful but restrained.

What a contrast to the 1757 "Welch’Getümmel erschüttert den Himmel." If "Jesu wirst Du bald" was unassuming and introspective, "Welch' Getümmel" is unabashedly celebratory and triumphant. In this cantata, trumpets and tympani provide flourishes and fanfares. The bass soloist sings highly ornamented arias. The choral writing is a blend of imaginative counterpoint and full-bodied harmonies.

The other works also have their merits, not least of which are the performances of the soloists. Soprano Simone Schwark and bass Markus Flaig deliver a seamless duet in "Wertes Zion," their voices blending beautifully. And alto Johanna Krell's warm, intimate singing of "Kraft und Worte" I found especially charming.

The Kammerchor der Erlöserkirche Bad Homburg has a smooth, rich ensemble blend and sometimes sounds bigger than it is (a real plus for "Welch’Getümmel").

Four of the five works on this release are world premiere recordings, and I think they all deserve a hearing. Telemann's best known for writing a lot of music. This release, featuring works spanning his career, reminds us just how good most of it is.

Georg Philipp Telemann: Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott
Festival Cantatas of the Reformation
Simone Schwark, soprano; Johanna Krell, alto; Hans Jörg Mammel, tenor; Wolfgang Weiß, Markus Flaig, bass
Kammerchor der Erlöserkirche Bad Homburg; Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble; Arno Paduch, director
Christophorus CHR 77405

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