Telemann: Germanicus

LABELS: Germanicus
WORKS: Germanicus
PERFORMER: Olivia Stahn, Elisabeth Scholl, Matthias Rexroth, Albrecht Sack, Henryk Böhm, Tobias Berndt, Friedrich Praetorius, Dieter Bellmann (speaker); Saxon Baroque Orchestra/Gotthold Schwarz


This live recording from the 2010 Magdeburg Telemann Festival is a fascinating reconstruction of Telemann’s Germanicus, written between 1701-05 (and later revised) for Leipzig, when the city briefly rivalled Hamburg as a centre of operatic invention.

Thanks to musicologist Michael Maul it comes to us as a delightful, polyglot singspiel. Maul pieced together 40 surviving arias – some in German, some in Italian – from the Johann Christian Senckenberg University Library in Frankfurt am Main. He deftly plundered additional music by Johann David Heinichen, Melchior Hoffmann and Johann Gottfried Vogler to fill the gaps, and extrapolated a spoken text from the original libretto by Christine Dorothea Lachs to replace the missing recitatives.

Germanicus is a young man’s work, and its natural giddiness is compounded by its frequent switching between languages. National stereotypes prevail: Agrippina is a passionate creature when she sings in Italian (see Act I’s stunning ‘Rimembranza crudel’) but remarkably level-headed when she sings in German (see Act II’s ‘Komm, o Schlaf’).

Telemann seems dazzled by the lusty kidnapper Arminius and rather bored by Agrippina’s husband Germanicus. But the vivacity of the writing is breathtaking. Under Gotthold Schwarz, the Saxon Baroque Orchestra relishes every affect of this exuberant score, while Elisabeth Scholl’s expressive Agrippina, Tobias Berndt’s heroic Arminius and Friedrich Praetorius’s perky Caligula head a sturdy cast. There is a great deal in this recording to enjoy and admire.


Anna Picard