Telemann: A Christmas Oratorio (pasticcio)

A terrific idea, and one executed to perfection. Absolutely recommended ... now, where are those last mince pies?

Telemann: A Christmas Oratorio (pasticcio)

I know it's after Christmas, and the shops have effected the equivalent of a Prelude and Liebestod cut-and-shut by replacing Christmas puddings with Easter eggs already, but what better way to finish off those leftover mince pies than to the accompaniment of Telemann's Christmas Oratorio? Plus, t was only released (in teh UK, at least) on January 5, this very day ...

I say "Christmas Oratorio," but what this is, is a 'Pasticcio,' an invented oratorio by presenting a sequence of five Christmas cantatas from Telemann's Hamburg and Frankfurt in sequence. It's also “A Christmas Oratorio,” the single-letter indefinite article carrying a lot of explicatory weight; as there are a kazillion Telemann cantatas to choose from (even if one zooms into Yule) so this is one of many possibilities.

The first cantata, Siehe, ich verkünduige such große Freude, TWV 1:1333 (so the 1333th piece in the first volume of the Telemann catalogue!), “I proclaim to you great joy,” was composed for the First Day of Christmas in 1755. And what a performance this is! Listen to this chorale, “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt,” and how tenderly and perfectly it is delivered by the Rheinische Kantorei, the chords so perfectly balanced, the lines so superbly sculpted:

The soloists are uniformly excellent, soprano Veronika Winter pure of voice, bass Matthias Vieweg nicely focused, and tenor Georg Poplutz supremely expressive and sweet of tone. Let's hear the five-minute tenor aria, “Uns von Allen Bösen zu erlösen” (You come, Emmanuel, to deliver us from all evil), Telemann at his most inspired:

The second cantata was intended for the Second Day of Christmas two years later, in 1757, also in Hamburg. The bass aria that opens gathers Christians together in Bethlehem: Tönet die Freedom belebte Trompeten, TWV 1: 1410 (Intone the joy, ecstatic trumpets), and no doubting those trumpets in the music, excellently played here by Gábor Hegyi and Daniel Ackermann:

Perhaps the most extraordinary moment here is the pianissimo chorus, “Wir beben, Gott Jakob,” which includes a bright as a button soprano solo from Veronika Winter:

.. and you might recognise the melody of the final Chorale, “Herr, sei gebenedelt”:

The third cantata, Darzu its errchienen die Liebe Gottes, TWV 1: 166 (for the Third Day of Christmas; The Love of God has appeared to us) opens with a light, gloriously inspired Aria with Chorus . The chorus is sung one to a part for much of the time, lending the movement a real sense of rhythmic buoyancy:

Perhaps the highlight here is the duet of praise for the Christian God for soprano and bass (with the nicely prominent bassoon of Rebecca Mertens), “Wir sind Frei von Kett und Banden”:

Written for New Year's Day, Frankfurt, 1717, Wünschet Jerusalem Glück (TWV 1: 1726, Wish Happiness to Jerusalem) has a central aria that is a duet between alto and bass, here Anne Bierwirth and Vieweg, “Glück und Friede” (Happiness and peace). It is a piece of the utmost grace. Lovely to hear that Vieweh's decorations of line are just as free and perfect as Bierwirth's!:

This is followed by a tenor aria (itself preceded by a soprano recitative), “In Jesu Namen” (I Jesus’ name), full of life:

The final cantata is for Epiphany, Ihr Völker, bringet her dem Herrn (TWV 1: 919, Frankfurt, 1719; You peoples, bring to the Lord). It opens with the most remarkable chorus:

This is the shortest of the cantatas on the disc - the longest aria is less than two minutes. Written for Epiphany, it is the buoyant tenor aria, ”Ich opfre, Jesu, dir mein Herz” (I offer, Jesus, my heart) that gives greatest joy. Poplutz's voice is miraculously free, and he really gives the impression of relating a story:

This disc offers a terrific idea, and one executed to perfection. Absolutely recommended ... now, where are those last mince pies?

This album is available for streaming on Amazon here, and you can buy the physical product via Amazon here.