Telemann: Der Tod Jesu

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COMPOSERS: Telemann
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Der Tod Jesu
PERFORMER: Dorothee Mields (soprano), Britta Schwarz (alto), Jan Kobow (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass); Magdeburg Chamber Choir, Michaelstein Telemann CO/Ludger Rémy
CATALOGUE NO: 999 720-2
Telemann’s Passion oratorio Der Tod Jesu (1755) marked the beginning of a musically rejuvenating period in the composer’s life. He was 74 when he set Carl Wilhelm Ramler’s text and over the next decade he produced a fairly steady stream of stylistically progressive vocal works, culminating in the dramatic cantata Ino, one of the very finest of them all. Der Tod Jesu is not a dramatic oratorio with a narrator, but a lyrical piece in which feelings are expressed in a manner reflecting the new spirit of the German Enlightenment. Ramler’s text had been commissioned by Frederick the Great’s sister Anna Amalia and was set, not only by Telemann, but also by Carl Heinrich Graun, whose version, also first performed in 1755, enjoyed extended popularity. Telemann’s setting strikes an expressively profounder note than that of his younger contemporary and his responses to Ramler’s poetry seem more intuitively at ease.

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This is the second and preferable of two performances so far issued on disc. The musical content is a conflation of several sources which have been sensitively assembled for this recording. The solo vocalists make a strong showing and are, for the most part, well complemented by choir and period instruments under Ludger Rémy’s stylish direction. This is a piece well worth getting to know. Nicholas Anderson