Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690‑1749) was one of the most talented of the lesser-known Kapellmeisters of the same generation as Telemann. Like Handel, Stölzel was trained in church music but inclined towards Italianate opera, and during a trip to Italy he interacted with Gasparini, Vivaldi, Marcello, Bononcini and Domenico Scarlatti. Also like Handel, Stölzel is said to have declined offers to remain in Italy owing to religious reasons; he eventually settled at the court of Saxe-Gotha in 1720. No ordinary musician, Stölzel’s vocal works were admired and probably performed by Bach. It is possible that Stölzel wrote his own libretto texts, and it is believed he composed about 60 music dramas of varying kinds while employed at Saxe-Gotha. Most are now lost, but this collection presents two.
In the allegorical serenata Alles, was sonst lieblich heisset, the four voices Canto, Alto, Tenor and Basso dispute the respective virtues they bring to Harmony (naturally, all four eventually join together in a neatly worked final chorus). It is much like a Cecilian ode in its contrasting instrumental textures and literary conceit, and Stölzel’s beautifully crafted music is played and sung with infectious radiance. Dorothee Mields’s contributions have delicious suppleness and sweetness (the aria “Die Biene zieht aus vielen Blumen” is a blissful experience in which Mields’s rapturous singing is tenderly counterposed by muted strings).
Seid wilkommen, schöne Stunden is equally attractive, and it is a nice surprise to hear a sunny chorus featuring trumpets and drums opening a pastoral lovers’ tale (to call it a “drama” would overstate the case somewhat). There is enjoyable singing from Knut Schoch and Ekkehard Abele, but Elisabeth Graf sounds a little less comfortable with her pitching. Ludger Rémy and Telemannisches Collegium Michaelstein have revived interest in Stölzel with several excellent recordings on CPO, and this new contribution is an undiluted pleasure.