In an age of artistic conformity, Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) had a refreshingly individual voice. In his own time he was described as 'a reserved, bigoted Catholic, but also a respectable, quiet, unassuming man, deserving of the greatest respect'. His music earned Bach's respect for its serious contrapuntal procedures; today's listeners, though, are more immediately charmed by Zelenka's quirky turns of phrase and flashes of original genius. There are plenty of these in the Passion oratorio Gesù al Calvario (1735), one of the composer's three late oratorios. This is an essentially contemplative oratorio. All the 'action' is concentrated into a single scene in which the three Marys and St John are waiting on the Mount of Calvary for Jesus after he has been sentenced to death. The crucifixion itself is not depicted, just the emotional reactions to it.
Hermann Max keeps on impressing me with his interpretations (I've heard his Bach Matthew passion and liked it very much). In this case he brings together a reverent but emotionally filled production of just a few of the many, many, many Telemann choral pieces that have been neglected over the years. Special praise goes to the counter-tenor Cordier, the tenor Wilfried Jochens, and the two basses Wimmer and Shreckenberg. But really, all the soloists are exceptional. The choir is wonderful. I've never heard such good sopranos, except for maybe Hengelbrock's women. Max really pushes the envelope on a couple pieces, especially one of the bass solos that he pushes along so fast that you can hardly hear the words. Amazingly, the interpretation works for the song and the energy is like nothing I've heard. The orchestra is as professional as any period ensemble I've heard. For those who like to follow Suzuki's Bach cycle, they might be interested in knowing that Achira Tachikawa, the 1st counter-tenor used by Suzuki in his cycle, is one of the four altos in the choir (this recording was made before Suzuki's first recording was). This is my first experience with Telemann, so I can't give a fair comparison to Bach, but I can say that I loved this cd and believe anyone who loves baroque Lutheran sacred music should pick this up as a wonderful find. I can't believe that nobody else has reviewed this yet! I am happy to be the first. Five enthusiastic stars!
Johann Mattheson gained lasting renown as a music writer with his two main works Die musikalische Ehrenpforte and Der vollkommene Kapellmeister, with the latter representing a foundational writing on cultural politics, musical aesthetics, and compositional practice in the first half of the eighteenth century. Mattheson was also himself a composer and experienced his most productive phase in this capacity during his years as cathedral music director at the Hamburg Cathedral (1715-28). He wrote twenty-four oratorios and other works for the cathedral music until increasing deafness forced him to resign from his post. That Mattheson is not at all known as a composer certainly has to do with the fact that a considerable portion of his compositional oeuvre was regarded as lost until 1998, when some works were rediscovered in a war evacuation depot in Erivan (Yerevan), Armenia. These works include Der liebreiche und geduldige David (The Loving and Patient David) of 1723, one of Mattheson’s last oratorios. It reveals him to us as a dramatically well-versed, highly imaginative musician who more than deserves his personal renaissance. cpo vows to take up his cause!