Telemann: St John Passion

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COMPOSERS: Telemann
LABELS: Eufoda
WORKS: St John Passion
PERFORMER: Catherine Bott, Sarah Connolly, Reginaldo Pinheiro, Jan Vandercrabben, Philip DefrancqCollegium Instrumentale Brugense, Capella Brugensis/Patrick Peire
CATALOGUE NO: 1224 DDD (distr. Coda International: +32 13 55 29 07)
Telemann, that prodigiously productive and successful friend of both Bach and Handel, supplied Hamburg’s churchgoers with 44 settings of the Passion story in as many years. Some twenty of them have survived, among which is this 1745 setting of passages from St John’s Gospel. Telemann’s Passions contain none of the bold and original masterstrokes which characterise those of Bach. Indeed, they set out with a deliberate simplicity of sentiment and economy of means – that is part of their considerable appeal. Yet Telemann adheres, by and large, to the pattern which had been established in the previous century, whereby the story, told by the Evangelist (traditionally a tenor) is interrupted by reflective arias, ariosi and choruses, and punctuated by chorales – the familiar Lutheran hymns of the time.

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This beautiful Passion setting has never before been recorded on disc and is striking for the many indications it contains of Telemann’s fascination with the evolving early Classical style and with which he was to become increasingly preoccupied. The work is particularly well-endowed with arias – 11 in all – and was evidently well regarded by Telemann’s contemporaries, since it enjoyed the privilege, unique among his Passions, of being published during his lifetime. The performance is never less than adequate and there are many contributions, notably from the soprano Catherine Bott, which soar far above that. Nicholas Anderson