University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Telemann: Seliges Erwagen

04/14/2019 1:00 pm
04/14/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

I customarily offer listeners a Passion oratorio or something similar on Palm Sunday. The most famous of such works is, of course, Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Bach's colleague Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) wrote many more Passion settings than Bach and long outlived him. In fact, Telemann was one of the single most prolific composers in the history of music.) Over three decades plus of Palm Sundays I have aired recordings of some of Telemann's output of Lutheran church music for Eastertide, for instance, his setting of Brockes Passion (1716), which went over the air on March 28, 2010 (Jacobs/Akademie fur Alte Music Berlin/RIAS Kammerchor, Harmonia Mundi CDs, c2009). Many of the leading composers in Northern Germany in the early eighteenth century took on Brockes Passion (Handel included).

Seliges Erwagen or "Blessed Contemplation" is not a musical setting of the Passion narrative of one of the four Gospels. Rather, it is a sequence of nine cantatas which are dramatic meditations on the suffering and death of Christ. In its earliest form it may have been performed in 1719. It definitely was given during Holy Week of 1722 in Hamburg in its revised form and became one of the most widely played works of its kind throughout Central Europe in the eighteenth century, surpassing even Brockes Passion.

"Blessed Contemplation"has no Evangelist or narrator. It does have solo singing roles for Jesus, Peter, the High Priest Caiaphas and the allegorical figures of Devotion or Faith and Zion (ie. The Church). Seliges Erwagen was recorded live in performance by NDR North German Radio in the course of the 2017 Hamburg Telemann Festival. Gottfried von der Goltz conducts the period instrument players of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. The French Aparte label issued this Telemann oratorio on two compact discs in 2018.