Telemann: St Matthew Passion

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LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: St Matthew Passion
PERFORMER: Wilfried Jochens (tenor, Evangelist), Klaus Mertens (bass, Jesus), Sebastian Hübner, Christoph Burmester-Streffer, Bernhard Scheffel (tenor), Ekkehard Abele (bass); Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
This excellent Capriccio recording ranks among Hermann Max’s finest Telemann offerings to date, comparable to Harnoncourt’s exemplary Teldec reading of Der Tag des Gerichts (The Day of Judgement). The St Matthew Passion of l746 is a far cry from routine Telemann. Its subtlety stems from its harking back to French models, generating a fluidity of word-setting and flexibility of arioso and recitative which lends the work its fervour and sustained dramatic variety. Wilfried Jochens’ supple tenor Evangelist and Klaus Mertens’ Jesus are first class. The choir is ardent and focused and the orchestral underlay, with oboe, cello and horn obbligati, glowing and inspired. The stylishly unaffected soprano arias and Peter’s vivid affirmation aria are a rewarding bonus.


By l761, the year of Die Auferstehung (The Resurrection), Telemann had reached 80. The secular feel to the lyrical arias here recalls his enchanting Die Tageszeiten (a joyous preempting of Haydn’s The Seasons). Ludger Rémy directs a satisfying, full-blooded instrumental ensemble; his Magdeburg choir is rhythmically vital, if not quite as lucid as Max’s Rheinische Kantorei. The opening soprano lament is intriguing, if indulgently Romantic; several bass arias (Mertens again) are uplifting. The other work, a reconstructed secular celebration cantata, is more four-square, less satisfying late Telemann. Roderic Dunnett