Telemann “Musicalisches Lob Gottes” leavened with Viol Fantasies

For this release, Simone Eckert takes a stripped-down approach to Telemann. Granted, Telemann’s sacred music sounds glorious with a large chorus and supporting orchestra.

But the reality was different. Most German courts had modest resources, with only a few singers and a handful of instruments.

The cantatas recorded here could all be considered chamber works — at least as performed. The pieces come from Telemann’s 1744 “Musicalisches Lob Gottes in der Gemeine des Herrn.” It’s a collection of cantatas to use throughout the church year.

Telemann created it for small ensembles. The cantatas only require two or three voices, two violins, and continuo. Some have parts for trumpets, timpani, winds, and more strings, but these are all optional.

These intimate cantatas are wonderfully performed. The voices of Dorothee Mields and Hanna Zumsande blend quite well. With Klaus Mertens added to the mix, the vocal trio has a pleasing blend.

To provide contrast,  Simone Eckert alternates the cantatas with instrumental music. Specifically, he uses selections from Telemann’s 1735 “Twelve Fantasias for Viol without Bass.” They’re not quite the Bach Cello Suites, but they’re challenging enough to play. The viol in question is the viola da gamba, a precursor of the violoncello.

Simon Eckert performs these works and does so with expert precision. Telemann uses different techniques to have this single-line instrument harmonize itself.

In addition to double stops, there are many places where a low string is set to vibrate. This provides the foundation for the melody played on the upper strings. Eckert executes these passages with seeming ease.

Moving between the cantatas and fantasias makes for an interesting program on paper. And one I found effective as a listener.

Georg Philipp Telemann: Musicalisches Lob Gottes
Cantatas, Fantasies for Viola da Gamba
Dorothee Mields, soprano; Hanna Zumsande, soprano; Klaus Mertens, bass
Hamburger Ratsmusik; Simone Eckert, director and viola da gamba

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