Telemann: Christmas Cantatas III. © 2020 cpo

CD Spotlight

Strangely Less Familiar

Telemann Christmas Cantatas, warmly recommended by GERALD FENECH

'There is no doubt that Willens and his team believe wholeheartedly in Telemann's work, and these pieces are perfectly executed by all involved.'


Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was not only one of the greatest composers of the German baroque; he was also one of the most prolific. During his long life, he composed a staggering number of works covering all the standard genres of his day. An amazing fact is that more than 3,000 of his compositions survive in print or manuscript. His chamber music, orchestral suites and concertos for various combinations of almost every instrument known at the time are familiar.

Strangely less familiar is Telemann the church composer. Yet between 1717 and 1765 he created more than 1,700 cantatas, for use on all the Sundays of the liturgical year. Several dozen annual cycles of cantatas survive from his tenure as music director in Frankfurt am Main, and especially from his Hamburg years. The most profuse, with nearly two hundred cantatas, are those for the four Sundays in Advent and the three days of Christmas. Unfortunately, only a few of his larger compositions from this corpus of music have been published and recorded.

Listen — Telemann: Fort, ihr Sünden, aus dem Wege
(track 4, 0:00-0:58) ℗ 2020 cpo :

For this volume III the selection has fallen on four cantatas from a miscellany of 150 preserved at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels. Three of them are found in no other source, and all four appear here for the first time on disc. They include two for the first Sunday in Advent: Was für ein jauchzendes Gedränge (TVWV 1:1509) (What a joyous throng) and Eilt zu, ruft laut, ihr längst verlangten Boten (TVWV 1:415) (Make haste, shout loud, ye long awaited messenger), neither of which can be assigned to a particular annual cycle.

Listen — Telemann: Eilt zu, ruft laut, ihr längst verlangten Boten
(track 10, 0:00-0:57) ℗ 2020 cpo :

The remaining two cantatas on the programme were composed for the second day of Christmas. They are Verirrter Sünder, Kehrt, ach, kehret um (TVWV 1:1469) (Errant sinners, turn back, ah, turn back) and Da aber die Zeit erfüllet war (TVWV 1:154) (But when the fullness of the time had come).

Listen — Telemann: Da die Zeit erfüllet war
(track 27, 2:10-3:06) ℗ 2020 cpo :

The latter pair come from the Hamburg cycle of 1726, and as was the custom, both were sung before the sermon. These choral pieces are real gems, full of melody and imagination, and their revival is long overdue. There is no doubt that Willens and his team believe wholeheartedly in Telemann's work, and these pieces are perfectly executed by all involved. CPO's sound is wholly ideal too. Warmly recommended, especially for this time of the year.

Copyright © 9 December 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta









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