Telemann Christmas Oratorios – stellar performances from the Kölner Akademie

For Telemann, 1730-31 was the “year of oratorios.” Given the rich musical resources of Hamburg, he wrote a series of oratorios for the liturgical year. Michael Alexander Willens and the Kölner Akademie perform three of these recently rediscovered works, all centered around Christmas.

The Baroque oratorio was closely related to opera, and Telemann wrote accordingly. The soloists are giving arias, duets, and ensemble pieces that use the full range of vocal expression.

Schmecket und sehet (O taste and see) was written for the first day of Christmas. The text is an allegorical call to Bethlehem. Telemann’s use of winds gives the oratorio a pastoral feel, suggesting the call to the shepherds. Telemann names the choral passages the “Choir the Joyful Souls.” As performed by the Kölner Akademie, that joy is palpable.

For the third day of Christmas, Telemann wrote Im hellen Glanz der Glaubenssonnen (In the bright glow of the sun of faith). The text contemplates the enormity of God’s gift. Here Telemann names the ensemble the “Choir of the faithfully observing souls.” Their chorals are somber and introspective.

Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Lord God, we praise you), the oratorio for New Year’s Day, has a formal quality to it. The counterpoint is dense and complex, the solo passages somewhat restrained in their contours.

Und das Wort ward Fleisch (The Word Made Flesh) from the 1741 Musicalisches Lob Gottes rounds out the program. It quotes Martin Luther’s Christmas carol, Gelobet seist du Jesu Christ and In ducli jubilo. It’s a light, airy work with plenty of opportunities for the soloists to display their skills.

Whether you prefer the Christmas cantatas of Bach, or Handel’s “Messiah,” you’ll find lots to enjoy in this recording. Kölner Akademie and Michael Alexander Willens bring out the unique character of each oratorio. And the soloists — especially soprano Monka Mauch — sing with beauty and sensitivity.

Georg Philipp Telemann: Christmas Oratorios
Schmecket und sehet, TVWV 1:1251*; Im hellen Glanz der Glaubenssonnen, TVWV 1:926*; Herr Gott, dich loben wir, TVWV1:745*; Und das Wort ward Fleisch, TVWV1:1431
Monka Mauch, soprano; Nicole Pieper, alto; Georg Poplutz, tenor; Klaus Mertens, Raimonds Spogis, Manfred Brul, Joel Urch, bass
Kölner Akademie; Michael Alexander Willens, director
CPO 555 254-2
*World premiere recordings

More Recent Posts

  • New Jazz Adds – 6/18/2019

    New Jazz Adds – 6/18/2019 Melissa Aldana – Visions (Motema): Composer/tenor sax player Melissa Aldana: “On her first jazz quartet “Visions”, award-winning saxophonist Melissa Aldana connects her work to the legacy of Latina artists who have come before her, creating a pathway for her own expression. Inspired by the life and works of Frida Kahlo, […]

  • New Blues News – 6/18/2019

    New Blues News – 6/18/2019 Albert Castiglia – Masterpiece (Gulf Coast): Veteran guitarist/singer/songwriter Albert Castiglia has created this most recent disc, his eighth, in a new way. Though the music is solidly blues based, the instrumentation was all performed by Castalia (vocals, guitar, bass) and Mike Zito (guitar, bass, drums, keys). Castalia wanted the punch […]

  • Nan MacMillan stops by WTJU, June 18

    Nan MacMillan will stop by WTJU this Tuesday afternoon, June 18, around 4:30 for a live session in advance of some concerts in the area.  She will be accompanied by cellist Augie Fairchild.

  • Jon Spear Band at Offbeat Roadhouse, June 21

    The Jon Spear Band will pull into Offbeat Roadhouse on Friday night, June 21, from 8-9 for a concert which will also be broadcast on WTJU.  Sure you could listen on the radio (91.1 FM) or on-line, and even video stream it, but concerts always sound better with you as part of the studio audience. […]

  • #ClassicsaDay #BlackMusicMonth Week 2

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

    Since 1979, June has been African-American Music Appreciation Month. The Classics a Day team decided to adopt it for the June 2019 theme as well. Popular music genres will no doubt be well-represented by others. We’ll be focusing on the composers, conductors, and performing artists of color who have contributed to classical music. For my […]