Bach & Telemann: Cantatas for Baritone

Christoph Prégardien, Vox Orchestra, Lorenzo Ghirlanda

Bach & Telemann: Cantatas for Baritone
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Bach & Telemann: Cantatas for Baritone

Christoph Prégardien, Vox Orchestra, Lorenzo Ghirlanda

A famous cantata for baritone by Johann Sebastian Bach (“Kreuzstabkantate”), combined with two cantatas by Georg Philipp Telemann. In addition and as a supplementary musical colour there are three purely instrumental pieces: overtures by J. F. Fasch and Telemann, and as an “encore”, the Larghetto from Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op. 6/4.

Christoph Prégardien was and is well known as one of the most versatile lyric tenors of our time. Actually, he now more and more discovers the “lower” musical repertoire for baritones and bass baritones. The legendary Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has been one of the most famous interpreters of Bach’s “Kreuzstabkantate”. To compete with such an important predecessor is a great challenge and interesting undertaking for the artist.

The Vox Orchestra represents a selection of young and enthusiastic musicians. They all grew up with the practically trained knowledge about historically informed performances. The combination of these musical “hotheads” with the experienced Christoph Prégardien is particularly attractive.

Bach’s cantata ends with the moving and impressive chorale “Komm, o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder” (“Come, o death, brother of sleep”). On our album, this chorale is sung by the young musicians of the orchestra themselves, who were especially trained for this occasion by Christoph Prégardien.

Review

Despite his mature sixty-two years, Christoph Prégardien possesses a voice of youthful agility. I first heard Prégardien singing Schubert’s ‘Die Schöne Müllerin’ in his delectable tenor register, but for this new recording of Bach and Telemann cantatas he has descended to the depths of the baritone range. It’s different, yes, but even in a lower register Prégardien’s voice retains its distinctive brassy timbre. Perhaps his decision to change voice types is to do not only with age but also with the desire to make space for his talented tenor son Julian.

Regardless, my first impression was just how Bachian are Telemann’s cantatas. Telemann uses the voice in much the same way as Bach: chromatically, and, with frequent angular and awkward intervals, as though it is a stringed instrument. ‘Was gibst du den, o meine Seele?’ contains moments of introspection and jollity, ending in a chorale that sounds as though it has been lifted directly from Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Prégardien proves his aptitude for this baritonal oratorio repertoire, singing with his famously gutsy tone in the faster movements, and employing suitable darkness of voice as the music calls for it. The album is testimony to Prégardien’s continuing musical excellence and intelligence.


Alexandra Mathew is a classical music specialist at Readings Carlton.

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