Promoting Historically-Inspired Performances of Early Music and Baroque Opera
Telemann's Ino - Review of CDs
One of Telemann's most interesting works is Ino, a dramatic cantata for soprano on a libretto by Karl Wilhelm Ramler (1725-1798), which Telemann composed about two years before his death. Ino may not have been performed while Telemann was alive. Peter Czornyj writes in the Archiv notes that Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach may have directed a performance in Hamburg in 1768.
Ramler was the librettist of some of Telemann's finest sacred music -- the Easter cantatas Der Tod Jesu and Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, and the Christmas oratorio Die Hirten bei der Krippe zu Bethlehem. Unlike those works, which are structured in traditional format with discrete arias, chorales, choruses and recitatives, Ino proceeds with minimal interruption. There is orchestral accompaniment in almost every movement, as, for example in J.C.F. Bach's Cassandra. The gallant style is pervasive, particularly in the final aria, which sounds as if it might have been composed by Hasse. Both the first and last arias are brilliant da capo arias, with contrasting B sections.
The text picks up where the libretto to Handel's Semele leaves off. Semele's sister, Ino, is pursued by Athamas, who is is determined to kill her son Melicertes. Fleeing the grasp of Athamas, Ino leaps off a cliff into the sea with Melicertes. The Tritons dance, and Ino is transformed into the goddess Leukothea.
The two recordings with which I am familiar were released in 1990, and I enjoy and recommend both of them. Harnoncourt's version is more representative of what would likely be heard in a concert hall, whereas Goebel's was optimized for hi-fi playback and sounds much better in the listening room.
The two recordings are similar in some respects, ie, speed of performance and vocal quality and approach of the soloists. However, there is a fundamental difference in sound and acoustics. Goebel's recording was made in a small room with minimal reverberation and precise miking of the instruments and soloist. In contrast, Harnoncourt's group was recorded in a larger, more reverberant hall, with distant microphones.
Furthermore, Harnoncourt's larger string section is dominant, veiling the wind instruments and soloist. The winds and soloist sound clean and direct on Goebel's recording. Furthermore, the quality of string playing on the Archiv recording is clearly better. Few groups could match the precise string playing by Goebel and his band in some of the extremely difficult passages, for example, in the A section of "Ungöttliche Saturnia".
Goebel introduced Ino with a contemporaneous hunting overture in D major by Telemann. That was an excellent decision, as the two works complement each other and almost fill the CD. Teldec paired Ino with Handel's Apollo & Dafne, a completely different type of work that probably was not the best choice. However, it gave purchasers more minutes of music for their money.
The notes provided with the two CDs are also complementary. Each brochure contains information not found in the other. Both brochures include English translations of the German texts, and Teldec also includes a French translation.
There was a quality control defect in each release. Archiv failed to number the pages of Goebel's brochure (at least in the American version), and the person charged with reviewing the proofs, who may have been illiterate, failed to detect that the pages were out of order. As a result, the title page is on page 5, the fourth and fifth pages of the libretto precede the first page of the libretto, and the notes are interrupted by the boilerplate pages and last two pages of the libretto. The interior of Teldec's brochure is nicely done and even includes page numbers, but the photo of the soloists on the cover is out of focus, which gives one a clue as to how the recording sounds.
I am not aware of any forthcoming recordings, although in December 2004, Trevor Pinnock directed the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in a performance of Ino with German soprano Marlis Petersen, heard recently on René Jacobs' fine new recording of Haydn's The Seasons. (Ino reviewed by Joseph Sargent.) There is a 1965 recording that I haven't heard by Gundula Janowitz, soprano, with the Kammerorchester der Hamburger Telemann-Gesellschaft directed by Wilfried Boettcher, DG-Archiv 198 359 & 198 859 (1 LP). It was reissued in January 2006 in the 5-CD set, Gundula Janowitz, The Golden Voice, DG 477 583-2 [US | UK | DE | FR | CA | JP]. Another old recording I haven't heard features Adele Stolte, soprano, with the Kammerorchester Berlin directed by Helmut Koch, reissued on a Corona Classics CD [DE | FR]. Finally, Helmut Rilling recorded Ino in the 1960's with Yvonne Ciannella, soprano, and the Bach Collegium, Stuttgart on Turnabout LP TV 34100 S.
And now for some movement-by-movement comparisons:
Aria: "Ungöttliche Saturnia"
The cantata opens with an accompanied recitative, "Wohin? Wo soll ich hin?", followed by "Ungöttliche Saturnia", a fast, rage aria with strings and continuo, interrupted by a B-section with 6/8 dotted rhythm.
The aria begins with a complicated ritornello, played with great precision by Goebel's expert band. (Now familiar names in the group included Manfredo Kraemer, leader of the second violins, and Phoebe Carrai, principal cellist.) It's useful to have a preamp with remote control to cut the volume when Ino comes in, as the vocalist was singing into a close microphone. Barbara Schlick sounds shaky, with lots of vibrato. She adds few, if any, ornaments on the first pass, adding a few on the repeat including an excellent trill. She sings a very brief cadenza at the end of the B section, but no cadenza on either pass through the A section.
Harnoncourt/Alexander: 6'23 (+53)
Harnoncourt takes the A section slightly slower than Goebel, but his slow B section accounts for most of the 53 second difference. The strings play much more legato than Goebel's. Roberta Alexander is not close-miked and in some passages is overwhelmed by the strings. She also sings with lots of vibrato, few ornaments and no cadenzas. Both soloists are noticeably weak on the lowest notes.
Aria: "Meint ihr mich, ihr Nereiden?"
This is the eighth movement and second aria. Actually, it might better be described as a pastoral song in the gallant style. There is no B section or da capo. Flutes join the strings and continuo.
I would call Goebel's tempo allegretto. I prefer Schlick's version of this aria, in large part due to her performance of two sustained notes. She treats the first with swell and fade, and ends the second in a trill. Her cadenza is short and simple.
Harnoncourt/Alexander: 5'19 (+43)
Harnoncourt begins the opening ritornello at about the same speed as Goebel, but slows when the soloist enters. Alexander also sings a short and simple cadenza.
Aria: "Tönt in meinem Lobgesang"
The tenth and final movement is a fast da capo aria in the gallant style, with a contrasting 6/8 B-section. The repeat (to a sign) is about half the length of the full A-section. Flutes and horns join the strings and continuo.
This is a very difficult aria for the soloist, especially when taken at Goebel's breakneck pace. Schlick sings simple cadenzas after the first A section and the B section, then a longer cadenza incorporating the melody at the end of the aria. As in the other arias, her ornamentation is very conservative.
Harnoncourt/Alexander: 9'22 (+1'58)
The opening ritornello is slightly slower than Goebel's, but the pace slows when the soloist enters. However, most of the time difference is attributable to the B section, which Harnoncourt performs largo and Goebel larghetto or faster. Alexander sings no cadenza on the first pass, a short cadenza at the end of the B section, and a longer cadenza at the end of the aria.
Comparative listening to these movements several times back and forth reinforces my initial impressions. This is a superb cantata, and both performances are more than adequate. However, Goebel's is clearly preferable due to the superior string playing and quality of the recording. In any future recording, I would prefer a soloist who could sing the low notes with more authority. More elaborate ornamentation and extended cadenzas that had become fashionable long before 1765 would be welcome additions.