The classical music world loves to note beginnings and endings, so “Trove Thursday” does its part in commemorating the 250th anniversary of Georg Philipp Telemann’s death this year with a rollicking performance of his delightful comic opera Der geduldige Sokrates featuring a fine cast and the magnificent Akademie für Alte Musik conducted by René Jacobs.
An epigram attributed to Igor Stravinsky about Antonio Vivaldi has occasionally also been applied to Telemann: he wrote the same concerto 500 times. This does a disservice to both wildly prolific baroque masters but music by the Red Priest remains enormously popular unlike that of his German counterpart. But listening to his Wassermusik—Hamburger Ebb und Fluth
it’s difficult to understand why this thrilling piece isn’t performed nearly as often as Handel’s equivalent Water Music.
There are a surprising number of recordings of works from Telemann’s vast output of vocal music especially his sacred cantatas. I haven’t yet heard but will seek out Roberta Alexander’s version of Ino with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, a work also recorded by Gundula Janowitz.
I’m also tempted by if only for its swell name a CD of secular cantatas entitled “O Woe! O Woe! My Canary is Dead!” featuring soprano Dorothee Mields.
And, of course Telemann wrote 33 operas, the most “famous” being a two-character comic intermezzo Pimpinone written eight years prior to the quite similar La Serva Padrona of Pergolesi.
While revivals of 18th century operas in French and Italian continue to proliferate worldwide, those of works in German generally lag behind particularly in the US although the Minnesota Opera about 10 years ago performed the US premiere of Reinhard Keiser’s Der hochmütige, gestürzte und wieder erhabene Croesus, and the Boston Early Music Festival soon revives and then records Handel’s only extant German opera Almira.
This city even saw a Telemann work, Orpheus oder Die wunderbare Beständigkeit der Liebe, done by New York City Opera in 2012. I missed that but know the opera from its 1996 Harmonia Mundi CD led by Jacobs who has also recorded Keiser’s Croesus. Like many German operas of the time, Sokrates includes arias in Italian, and Orpheus even has a few in French!
Sokrates, which I first heard on Nicholas McGegan’s rough-and-ready recording of thirty years ago, was an absolute delight when I saw it at the Berlin Staatsoper in 2007. After the Berlin run, everyone traveled to Paris for a concert performance which was broadcast and is presented here. While the large cast mostly did justice to Telemann’s vivacious vocal writing, I most remember the richly sumptuous playing by the Akademie für Alte Musik, long one of the world’s best period-instrument orchestras.
Anyone eager to see a German baroque opera staged should hightail it to Innsbruck where Keiser’s Die römische Unruhe, oder Die edelmütige Octavia (boy, those long titles!) featuring the excellent American countertenor Eric Jurenas will be performed next week.
Otherwise you might have to wait until next spring for Telemann’s Miriways at the Staatsoper in Hamburg, the city where most of the operas mentioned including Sokrates premiered at the famed Oper am Gänsemarkt.
Telemann: Der geduldige Sokrates
Cité de la Musique, Paris
13 October 2007
Sunhae Im — Rodisette/Cupido
Birgitte Christensen — Edronica
Inga Kalna — Xantippe
Kristine Hansson — Amitta
Donat Havar – Melito
Matthias Rexroth – Antippo
Marcos Fink — Sokrates
Marteen Koningsberger — Nicia
Daniel Jenz — Pitho
Alexey Kudrya — Aristophanes
Michael Kranebitter — Plato
Sun-Hwan Ahn — Alcibiades
Richard Klein — Xenophon
Innsbruck Festival Chorus
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Rene Jacobs, conductor
Telemann’s Der geduldige Sokrates can be downloaded by clicking on the icons of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 files will appear in your download directory.