Telemann: Six Cantatas (1731) TVWV 20:17-22

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COMPOSERS: Telemann
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Six Cantatas (1731) TVWV 20:17-22
PERFORMER: Maria Jonas (soprano), Klaus Mertens (bass-baritone); Les Amis de Phillipe/Ludger Rémy
CATALOGUE NO: CPO 777 297-2

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This is a fascinating disc, not only for Telemann’s music which reveals the composer on strong form, but for the light which it sheds on his identification with the ideals expressed in the cantata texts.
 
Johann Philipp Praetorius, Johann Georg Hamann and Johann Ulrich von König had each furnished Telemann with opera and intermezzo librettos. These writers, and Telemann too, were members of leading and newly founded literary societies, and in these cantatas the relationship between text and music is close, apposite and often affecting.
 
The set of six works was issued in Hamburg in 1731 and, though not termed as such, belongs to the German Enlightenment genre of the moral cantata which Telemann explored in two later collections.
 
Don’t be put off by the term moral, for these are pieces of enormous charm where Telemann indulges his readily acknowledged gift at word-painting. The cantatas are evenly distributed between soprano and bass with ever varying instrumental combinations.
 
For the most part the performances are pleasing, though Maria Jonas is more persuasive in her mezzo range than in higher registers. Her ‘Erbarme dich’ (Cantata 5) – the text is secular – is beautifully sung.
 
Klaus Mertens is faultless in his declamation and sensitive to every nuance in Telemann’s music. Only a few passages of astringent instrumental playing marred my enjoyment. Nicholas Anderson