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<<  -- 2 --  Rex Harley    DAY OF JUDGMENT


Section three sees the raising of the dead by the archangel, and the contrasting responses of the damned and the blessed. The final section is essentially a service of praise and thanksgiving. Individual souls express their joy; John the Forerunner puts in an appearance; and finally, the risen blessed join forces with the angels:

Posaunet vor dem Sieger her!
Er Kömmt mit der erwählten Menge!
Ihre Zahl ist wie Sand am Meer,
und Ewigkeit ist ihres Lebens länge!

('Sound, trumpets, before the victor!
He comes with the multitude of the chosen.
Their number is like the sands of the sea
and the length of their lives is eternity!')

The passages quoted above demonstrate the poetic technique which gives the text its considerable power. As one commentator has observed, Alers chooses, 'words of few syllables, rich in vowels, preferring verbs that carry the action forward, sketching powerful images in terse sentences.' [Wolf Hobohm]. Telemann, by then in his eighties, used all his imaginative resources to create accompanying music which reflects the dramatic power of the poetry, together with the tenderness and subtlety of its quieter moments. The first and final sections are, in effect, self-contained cantatas, each framed by choruses. The two middle sections are less expansive, more urgent in the increasingly rapid exchanges between characters. Throughout, each soloist is called upon to perform a variety of roles. The bass, for instance, begins as Unbelief, reappears as Devotion, then as Jesus and John the Baptist. The choir likewise represent not only the blessed and angels, but vices personified; they are also used as a chorus -- in the sense of Greek tragedy -- to comment on the action.

The city of Graz. Photo © Graz Tourismus
The city of Graz. Photo © Graz Tourismus

Das Tag des Gerichts is a work like no other and, with the first performance taking place in 1761, is pretty much the final throw of the Baroque. Hearing it on CD is a powerful enough experience, but the opportunity of attending a live performance simply couldn't be passed over. So I went to Graz. Harnoncourt had already done two performances earlier in the year, in Vienna, but it's cold in March and anyway, in the words of a slogan which accompanied Graz's elevation to European City of Culture last year: 'Vienna is a suburb of Graz!'

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Copyright © 18 July 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


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