University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Telemann: Kapitansmusik

05/26/2019 1:00 pm
05/26/2019 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The free city of Hamburg was one of the largest and most important seaports in all of Europe. In the eighteenth century the self-governing municipality had fortifications bristling with cannons and guarded by a large militia. It amounted to a small army commanded by officers or "captains." This force was run like a fraternity. For many years the fraternity celebrated its existence with an annual banquet, for which musical entertainment was required. For the 1738 celebrations the captains commissioned the city's resident composer, Georg Philipp Telemann, to provide an oratorio in praise of the city and a serenata reflecting upon the glories of the home guard, with references to current threats to European peace, such as the Turks.

Telemann didn't emphasize the militarism of the occasion in composing his Kapitansmusik. There's a little bluster of fife and drum at the opening of the Serenata, but no more. Otherwise, Telemann's music is pleasingly tuneful throughout and colorfully scored for orchestra, wlth chorus and six vocal soloists. Telemann's Kapitansmusik 1738 was revived in 1965 in the former German Democratic Republic of East Germany. For the revival the music was considerably revised, the libretto de-militarized and the whole affair was styled a "Peace Oratorio."

The complete original "Captains' Music" was recorded in 2007 with Hermann Max leading the period instrument players of Das Kleine Konzert and the choral forces of the Rheinische Kantorei. The German CPO record label released the Telemann Kapitansmusik 1738 on two compact discs in 2010. There's just enough of the military and home defense in this work of Telemann's, I say, to make it appropriate for broadcast on the Sunday of our American Memorial Day holiday weekend.