The rule holds: even with funeral music, Telemann is fun while Bach is profound. This album offers a funeral cantata Telemann wrote for the deceased mayor of Hamburg, paired with a church cantata, Herr, strafe mich nicht in deinem Zorn (Lord, Do Not Punish me in Thy Anger). Schwanengesang 1733 (Swan Song of 1733) is distinctive in that it has a text written by the funeral honoree, apparently penned shortly before his death. The differences between Telemann and Bach are clear from the opening Sinfonia, where Telemann sets the mood with a marchlike operatic effect; Bach would have relied on more conventional but deeply elaborated harmonic means. The text opposes religious sentiments to more personal expressions of the torments and fears of dying, and Telemann effectively mirrors the various rhetorical devices in the text by juxtaposing chorale-based movements with aria and recitative structures, instead of building the piece on an all-pervasive chorale. The work is an interesting addition to the corpus of Telemann pieces that have seen the light of day on recordings, but the performance by La Stagione Frankfurt is lifeless even if technically unimpeachable. Part of the problem results from director Michael Schneider's reliance on what has been called "Madrigal in B minor" approach to German Baroque choral music: just one additional singer (a "ripieno soprano," alto, tenor, and bass) joins each soloist on each part in the choral movements. There is some (although by no means conclusive) documentary evidence for this procedure, but in a music built on the idea of the congregational chorale it makes no interpretive sense. Given that Telemann's melodies, in both Schwanengesang and the church cantata, are not consistently memorable, the music drags due to lack of differentiation. The best performances of Telemann pick up on his freewheeling imagination, but this does not number among them.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig, funeral cantata (II) for chorus, flute, oboe, 3 trumpets, strings & continuo, TWV 4:6|
|Herr, strafe mich nicht in deinem Zorn, sacred cantata for chorus, 2 oboes, 3 cornets, timpani, strings & continuo, TWV 1:771|