Fancy some Christmas cantatas, but perhaps for once not Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio”?
The Kölner Akademie under its director Michael Alexander Willens now offers a beautiful and almost unknown alternative: this year, the orchestra has recorded four of six Christmas cantatas by Ernst Wilhelm Wolf.
Wolf, who plays virtually no role in today’s musical life, was born in Gotha in 1735. Although his father would have preferred him to work in a trade, his musical talent was quickly recognized and he was admitted to the Gymnasium in Gotha and Eisenach, where he became a choir prefect. He then studied in Jena, where he quickly took over the Collegium musicum, which gave him the opportunity to perform his own compositions. His decisive place of activity finally became Weimar, where he was to leave his mark on musical life for over 30 years: First, the Duchess Anna Amalia hired him as a piano teacher, and then entrusted him with pretty much all musical offices as they became vacant. In 1768, he was finally court kapellmeister. He was greatly influenced by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Carl Heinrich Graun. His musical output, which was much admired by contemporaries but plays little role in today’s musical life, is rich and includes 20 singspiels, secular and sacred cantatas, oratorios, passions, symphonies, chamber music and songs. Wolf remained loyal to the Weimar court throughout his life – even when he received an offer to move to the Berlin court.
The four Christmas cantatas are stylistically on the threshold of the early classical period and the empfindsamer Stil. For the recording, the Kölner Akademie has brought on board as soloist trio Beate Mordal, Georg Poplutz and Matthias Vieweg. A good choice, they are not only convincing in their own right in their performance, but also in their perfectly coordinated interplay with the Kölner Akademie. This becomes particularly clear in the arias, whose accompaniment always succeeds with pinpoint accuracy, whereby the members of the Kölner Akademie are also convincing as soloists time and again. But it is not only in these passages that the orchestra, which for decades has been one of the best original sound ensembles in Germany, is convincing. Also the choirs succeed with (splendid) full and festive sound.
With Wolf’s Christmas cantatas, Willens and his ensemble have once again succeeded in helping a musical rarity gain a little more recognition.
Learn more about the very special Christmas Cantatas of Wolf and get the CD in our shop
(Ernst Wilhelm Wolf Auf, jauchzet ihr Christen Christmas Cantatas (koelnerakademie.de)