Telemann – Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst (Volume 1)

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Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst:
Cantatas for high voice, recorder & basso continuo

Bergen Barokk:
Mona Julsrud (soprano)
Frode Thorsen (recorder)
Hans Knut Sveen (harpsichord & organ)
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola (cello)

Recorded 11-13 October 2005 in Sofienberg kirke, Oslo

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: December 2006
TOCC 0037
Duration: 67 minutes

After so much enjoying Bergen Barokk’s first disc for Toccata Classics (trio sonatas by Georg von Bertouch – all premier recordings), I am delighted to see this group embarking on this new project, a complete recording of the 72 sacred cantatas that comprise Telemann’s “Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst”, of which this is the first volume.Again, Bergen Barokk is exploring new territory: much of Telemann’s collection, the first complete cantata cycle for the church year ever to be published (in 1726), has never been recorded before. The present volume contains six cantatas, all of which are scored for high voice (here a soprano), recorder obbligato and basso continuo. Each follows the same aria-recitative-aria pattern while making extensive use of melodic and harmonic word-painting.

These are delightful works, melodically attractive and short enough to appeal to those of us who prefer ‘sacred sound-bites’ to, say, Bach’s mighty edifices. Mona Julsrud sings with great clarity and beauty of tone while eschewing undue emphasis on already salient features, allowing Telemann’s effective writing to carry the day. Her ornamentation on the A-section repeats of the da capo arias is crisply executed, as is recorder-player Frode Thorsen’s, who elsewhere is given much work to do by way of instrumental introductions, and the ritornelli are an almost continuous counterpoint to the vocal line. His affecting tone and expressive phrasing greatly contributes to the elucidation of the text. Hans Knut Sveen fills out Markku Luolajan-Mikkola’s sometimes lively bass-line with great taste while being ever-attentive to the soloists.

The recorded sound perfectly conveys the requisite intimacy; Thorsen’s booklet notes are superb, with much background information and analysis. Full translations of the German texts are provided, as are the biblical texts on which the cantatas are a commentary.

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