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Klaus Mertens (Bass-Baritone)
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See Klaus Mertens - Short Biography


Mertens & Koopman

Johan van Veen wrote (February 21, 2000):

Last Saturday I attended a concert, given by Klaus Mertens (baritone) and Ton Koopman (harpsichord & organ). The programme was called 'Bei Bach zu Hause' (at Bach's place). It contained music, which can have been played and sung by Bach and his family. There were songs from 'Schemelli's Gesangbuch', some short harpsichord and organ pieces, the Toccata in G major (BWV 916), the cantata Amore Traditore, the aria Schlummert ein (BWV 82), as well as some pieces by Buxtehude and Böhm.

Klaus Mertens showed again why he is one of the greatest current Bach interpreters. His diction is immaculate: every word is audible, his phrasing and articulation are flawless and very natural. In particular the songs from Schemellis Gesangbuch were very fine, with beautiful ornaments. But also the humour of 'So oft ich meine Tobackspfeife' came across very well. He only had some problems with the low register.

I was less enthusiastic about Ton Koopman. His tempi, as always, very fast. Sure, the toccatas are brilliant and virtuoso pieces, but by playing the G major Toccata so fast as he did, and with so many ornaments, almost destroyed the piece. Strangely enough, the emotional impact of this work in this performance is almost zero - at least as far as I am concerned. I have an old recording with Gustav Leonhardt, which is far more sober, but at the same time much more impressive, because of the tension he creates by his subtle rubato and his excellent timing. Two minuets Koopman played (BWV Anhang 114 & 115) were hardly recognisable as minuets because of the enormous speed. That is unforgivable. Some of the songs were too fast as well - I think that on the whole the recording of Bach's sacred songs on CPO (with Barbara Schlick, Wouter Möller and Bob van Asperen) is better than this concert - not due to Klaus Mertens, but to Ton Koopman's habits of pushing the tempi.

All in all, it was a nice evening, but left me with mixed feelings.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (February 21, 2000):

(To Johan van Veen) Two comments on both performers

Just recently bought a CD with Mr. Mertens singing cantatas by Telemann from the Harmonische Gottesdienst. While his performance is definitely of the same standard, by singing it in this way he only makes more clear the difference between Bach cantatas and Telemann cantatas. Telemann cantatas you immediately forget as soon as they have stopped. It is nice enjoyable music, but it doesn't move.

As to Mr. Koopman: I have a CD with a few piece de resistance works as he calls it himself: a CD every harpsichord player would want to make once in his live: The Italian Concerto, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, the first French Suite and this same toccata, BWV 916. The comments you make apply to that disk also. Are you by any chance referring to a recording of Leonhardt somewhere in the late '60s? I have this on an LP, I almost never play it, but I still can remember and sing internally his rendition and I always will measure any recording to this standard. A pity Leonhardt decided to abandon the harpsichord (according to the Sony Website).

Johan van Veen wrote (February 21, 2000):

< Sybrand Bakker wrote: Two comments on both performers Just recently bought a CD with Mr Mertens singing cantatas by Telemann from the Harmonische Gottesdienst. While his performance is definitely of the same standard, by singing it in this way he only makes more clear the difference between Bach cantatas and Telemann cantatas. Telemann cantatas you immediately forget as soon as they have stopped. It is nice enjoyable music, but it doesn't move. >

I don't quite agree with that. I certainly do remember cantatas by Telemann. One of my favourites, also from the 'Harmonischer Gottesdienst' is 'Ihr Völker, hört'. I also remember 'Ach Herr, strafe mich nicht', recorded years ago by René Jacobs. I think Telemann and Bach are difficult to compare because of the difference in musical language. As far as immediately forgetting a piece: how often does one hear a piece by Bach for the first time? No wonder that one remembers it more easily. How often are cantatas by Bach performed in concerts (I have never heard one) or recorded (still very few).

< As to Mr. Koopman: I have a CD with a few piece de resistance works as he calls it himself: a CD every harpsichord player would want to make once in his live: The Italian Concerto, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, the first French Suite and this same toccata, BWV 916. The comments you make apply to that disk also. Are you by any chance referring to a recording of Leonhardt somewhere in the late '60s? I have this on an LP, I almost never play it, but I still can remember and sing internally his rendition and I always will measure any recording to this standard. >

I think you refer to the same record. It also contained the Triple concerto. It was one of the first records with baroque music on period instruments I ever bought. It made an enormous impression on me, and I have listened to it, and in particular to the Toccata, many times. It was just an example of Leonhardt's musical mastership. Strangely enough it hasn't been surpassed since.

< A pity Leonhardt decided to abandon the harpsichord (according to the Sony Website). >

Yes, a pity indeed. But he is going to concentrate on playing the organ. Being a great organ lover, that is good news for me. I always regretted that he didn't make more CD's with organ music. He made some excellent ones in the past on SEON. Unfortunately he hasn't done more of Bach's organ works. Those he has made, were very good.

Sybrand Bakker wrote: February 21, 2000):

<< Sybrand Bakker wrote: [snip] Are you by any chance referring to a recording of Leonhardt somewhere in the late 1960's? I have this on an LP, I almost never play it, but I still can remember and sing internally his rendition and I always will measure any recording to this standard. >>

< Johan van Veen wrote: I think you refer to the same record. It also contained the Triple concerto. It was one of the first records with baroque music on period instruments I ever bought. It made an enormous impression on me, and I have listened to it, and in particular to the Toccata, many times. It was just an example of Leonhardt's musical mastership. Strangely enough it hasn't been surpassed since. >

Yes, it did contain the triple concerto, three parts on a ground by Purcell, and an organ piece by C.P.E. Bach. For me, it was the second recording I ever bought, for 10 guilders in an Amsterdam dump. The title is Festkonzert des Barock. Strange enough, I also never heard a better performance of the Triple Concerto, though of course the recording itself doesn't quite measure up to current standards. For me this recording made me decide I would like to go into classical music. That I failed doing this is a different story, as I graduated in an era of economic crisis.

The third and fourth recording I bought where both from the Das Alte Werk series: two suites by Telemann (a-minor with solo-recorder and f-minor with chaconne for two recorders) and the Cembalo concertos BWV 1053, 1055,1056 in a shop in an Amsterdam suburb selling radios, televisions, laundry machines and records. Of course that firm long disappeared, as he couldn't cope against the emerging electronic shop chains, and it has long been replaced by a Chinese restaurant. I have been lucky that shop-owner decided to sell the Das Alte Werk series at all.

Mertens as Christ

Aya Itoi wrote (June 5, 2000):

As a very serious Klaus Mertens admirer, I feel compelled to give you the info.

< Mertens' singing of this Vox Christi aria is exemplary--beautifully colored, gently authoritative, and tenderly lyrical (Has Mertens sung as Christ in recordings of the passions? He's perfect for the role.) >

Yes, he has, and of course - he is very good. Noble, and quietly dignified. (He's also done a few Telemanns, and one Stolzel - Brockes Passion.)

St MatPassion (BWV 244)

Capriccio Records #60046 (5/1/96)

Cond: Hermann Max

Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert

with: Monica Frimmer, Veronika Winter, Lena Susanne Norine,

Christoph Pregardien (wonderful), Wilfried Jochens, KM,

Hans-Georg Wimmer

St John Passion (BWV 245)

Arts Music #47539 (7/13/99)

Cond: Diego Fasolis

Ensemble Vanitas, Intalian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus

With Roberta Invernizzi, Claudia Schubert, Nico Van der Meel,

Jeremy Ovenden, KM, Sergio Foresti

And --- those of us who were extremely fortunate to have been in Copenhagen last month, in Koopman's St Mark Passion - we heard Mertens sing both Christ and the arias (beautiful!), and Pregardien the Evangelist and the arias (equally beautiful). I sort of wished they'd done the CD that way. Are you jealous?

Ryan Michero wrote (June 5, 2000):

(To Aya Itoi) Thank you for the information on these recordings. I didn't realize he sang the role of Christ on either of these recordings. I have heard both of these

recordings are also very good overall, so I will have to give them a spin now. Both of these are also available at relatively low prices I think too...

< And --- those of us who were extremely fortunate to have been in Copenhagen last month, in Koopman's St Mark Passion - we heard Mertens sing both Christ and the arias (beautiful!), and Prégardien the Evangelist and the arias (equally beautiful). I sort of wished they'd done the CD that way. Are you jealous? >

Yes! Have you seen any good Suzuki performances lately?


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Last update: July 29, 2001 00:10:18