The Augustinus Muziekcentrum in Antwerp is a deconsecrated church repurposed for concerts, especially in the field of early music. The venue may work well for some pieces, but it's bothersome in this program of comic vocal and instrumental music by Telemann, where it's completely inappropriate. The two comic cantatas here presuppose an intimate environment of connoisseurs, but the voice of soprano soloist Dorothee Mields gets lots in the church's vast spaces to such an extent that text intelligibility is a problem, even with the aid of printed texts in German, Dutch, French, and English. It's a shame, for Mields does very well with the most charming of the five works on the program, the irrepressible Cantate oder Trauer-Musik eines kunsterfahrenen Canarien Vogel, TWV 20:37, or believe it or not, Cantata or Funeral Music for a Canary Familiar with the Arts. Telemann, with an absolute lack of seriousness, deploys a whole host of Italian operatic mannerisms in this work, and the challenge for the singers who've attempted it (not a large crowd) is to untrack themselves from regimes of discipline enough to be funny, but not to take a grotesque approach; the humor of the piece lies in small details that have to be delivered in a natural Way. Mields carries this off nicely, starting out in a sort of blank state and then adopting a pose of rising emotion. In the cornier and less interesting Der Weiber-Orden, TWV 20:49 (The Order of Women), she sounds entirely different, delivering the music in the intended tone of hearty, folkish humor. The three French-style instrumental overtures have plenty of humor themselves, with the last of them offering a gallery of theatrical figures (Scaramouche, Pierrot), concluding with an unusual "Mezzetin en Turc." The Bach Concentus under veteran historical-instrument conductor Ewald Demeyere accomplishes crisp, precise readings that provide ideal backing for Mields and are attuned to Telemann's humor in the overtures. Recommended, especially for those whose equipment isn't good enough to worry about the sound one way or the other.
Share this page