In 1715, Mattheson became music director of the Hamburger Dom (Cathedral), a post that he held until increasing deafness forced him to resign in 1728. As part of his duties, he composed music for the major church festivals, including 24 oratorios. Among the rediscovered manuscripts is the oratorio heard here, Der liebreiche und geduldige David. It deals with Absalom's revolt against his father David, King of Israel. The oratorio shares elements with the operas Mattheson, Kaiser, and other composers wrote for the Hamburg opera. It tells a dramatic story in a series of recitatives and arias, with an occasional chorus. One major difference between the two is the form of the arias. The oratorio eschews the da capo aria; only three arias are in this form. The oratorio also introduces allegorical characters (Meditatio, the Christian Community) alongside the human ones (David, Simei, Chusi, Abisai, Ithai, David's soldiers). Mattheson's style is essentially melodic, in general avoiding long melismatic passages and striving for simplicity and folk-like elements.
The performance is generally good, while failing to scale the heights. The best singing comes from Nicki Kennedy as Meditatio. She has a lovely voice, backed by good technique. I recently praised her singing in a recording of Handel's English cantatas, and she continues to impress here. The other singers, although they have the technique to sing their roles, are not on her level. The small chorus (only eight voices) and orchestra are good. Michael Alexander Willens leads a reasonably paced performance. But I doubt if the constantly shifting instrumentation of the continuo accompaniment is historically accurate.
The rediscovered manuscripts of Mattheson's compositions will make possible at last an evaluation of his work as a composer. Based on the music of this oratorio, he deserves a much higher place than he has been given hitherto. This recording should please all lovers of Baroque vocal music. -- Fanfare, Ron Salemi, Nov/Dec 2009