The Oratorium zur Einweihung der neuen St. Michaelis-Kirche, or Michaelis-Oratorium for short, was written for the dedication in 1762 of the new St. Michael's church in Hamburg by the 81-year-old Georg Philipp Telemann. The structure replaced one destroyed by lightning in 1750; the congregants declared that their god was a wrathful one and set about gathering funds for a new structure. The text contains a good deal of detail that pertained to the specific cultural background in Hamburg, and the album may be of interest to scholarly and academic listeners for this reason; the booklet goes into a depth unusual even for the specialist German label CPO. General listeners will also find much to enjoy, however, starting with the clean performances of the Kölner Akademie under Michael Alexander Willens, with a quartet of soloists led by tenor Julian Podger. The music is impressively varied, mixing trumpet-and-drum choruses appropriate to the festive occasion, more reflective chorales that seem to address the troubled circumstances of the new church's construction, and lighter pieces in the style of the middle 18th century. Sample the attractive alto aria "Tempel, den die Lieb erbauet", which could have come from the pen of Gluck. Despite its stylistic plurality, it all holds together, and conveys a strong sense of the occasion for which it was written. The work as a whole functions as a kind of summation of Telemann's career, and it would be a varied and colorful addition for any choral concert. A nice find from CPO.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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