musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Concertos & Ouverture"

Vincent Lauzer, recordera; Mathieu Lussier, bassoonb
Arion orchestre baroque
Dir: Mathieu Lussierab, Alexander Weimannc

rec: Dec 2015c, Oct 2019ab, Mirabel (Québec), Église Saint-Augustin
ATMA - ACD2 2789 (© 2020) (60'03")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in C (TWV 51,C1)a; Concerto for recorder, bassoon, strings and bc in F (TWV 52,F1)ab; Overture for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings and bc in G (TWV 55,G5)c

Hardly a month goes by without the release of a new recording of music by Georg Philipp Telemann. The disc under review here brings together two recordings dating from 2015 and 2019. The two concertos are pretty well-known, but the Overture in G is one of his lesser-known compositions.

Telemann was a promoter of the 'mixed taste': the mingling of elements of the French and Italian styles with the German contrapuntal tradition he had grown up with. However, he was certainly one of the most Francophile composers in Germany, and the large number of orchestral overtures or suites bears witness to that. This genre had its origin in French opera, in which ballet played an important role. The dances were also performed separately, in the form of orchestral suites, and - like everything French - this exerted a strong attraction to aristocrats who aimed at copying French culture at their courts. Some of them asked their Kapellmeister to compose suites in French style. This way the genre disseminated across the German-speaking world. Telemann became acquainted with the overture early in his career, and most of his own contributions to this genre date from that period. It is not known exactly how many of such works he has written; it is likely that a considerable number have been lost. Not a single orchestral suite has come down to us as an autograph; most of the suites have been preserved in copies by members of the court chapel in Darmstadt, where for many years Telemann's colleague and friend Christoph Graupner was Kapellmeister, who himself also contributed to the genre. That is also the case with the Overture in G included here. It has the common scoring for two oboes, bassoon, strings and basso continuo. The woodwind don't have separate parts: in line with performance practice in France, they play colla parte with the strings. However, several movements include passages for a trio of two oboes and bassoon, sometimes without basso continuo (for instance in 'Les Augures'), and sometimes in alternation with the strings (rondeau). This suite includes some strongly contrasting movements, such as the exuberant short 'La Joye' and the introverted 'Plainte'. In the closing three menuets, the woodwind are given the chance to shine again.

The two concertos represent another important genre in Telemann's oeuvre. The solo concerto was an Italian invention, and German composers were usually inspired by the Italian style. Johann Sebastian Bach is a good example: he thoroughly studied concertos by Vivaldi and other Italian composers, which strongly influenced his development as a composer of instrumental music. Telemann was much more restrained in adopting the Italian style; he lamented the lack of harmony, and did not like the importance of virtuosity. However, it did not prevent him from composing a large number of concertos, and many of them are certainly not free of virtuosity. The Concerto in C for recorder, strings and basso continuo is a good example. It is one of his best-known concertos, and that is not without a reason. It is not only very well-written, as one may expect from Telemann, but it is also one of the relatively few technically demanding recorder concertos. The recorder was very popular in the 17th century, but started to being overshadowed by the transverse flute in the age in which the solo concerto developed into one of the main genres of instrumental music. The recorder more or less missed the boat, so to speak. Telemann composed music for almost every instrument, and although he gave the transverse flute plenty of music to play, he did not forget the recorder, which takes an important place in his oeuvre. As the majority of his solo concertos, it has four movements, modelled after the Corellian sonata da chiesa. Notable are the pizzicato accompaniment of the strings in the solo episodes in the opening allegretto, and the chromaticism in the andante. The closing tempo di minuet is one of the longest of such movements in Telemann's oeuvre. This concerto probably dates from his Hamburg period, and may have been written between 1725 and 1730. Again it has come down to us in a copy made at the court in Darmstadt.

Telemann did not confine himself to the composition of concertos for one instrument; he also wrote a considerable number of concertos for two, three and even four instruments. Among his better-known in the double concerto department is the Concerto in F for recorder and bassoon. This is vintage Telemann: he often combined instruments of a different nature, such as the recorder and the viola da gamba or the oboe and the violin. The option of the bassoon is remarkable anyway, as in his time its role was mostly confined to the participation in the basso continuo section of the ensemble. Only a few solo concertos for the bassoon are known, in particular some virtuosic works by Graupner. This concerto is generally considered a masterpiece, with a fully developed ritornello structure, and brilliant parts for the two solo instruments. They are very different in character, but Telemann treats them on strictly equal terms and creates a remarkable interplay between them. The third movement has the character of an opera aria. This is one of the most 'Italianate' of Telemann's concertos.

There is no lack of recordings of these two concertos, but these performances are welcome anyway. Vincent Lauzer deals impressively with the technical requirements of the solo part in the Concerto in C. His creativity in the interpretation, also with regard to ornamentation, results in a most compelling performance. The double concerto makes an equally good impression, thanks to the individual qualities of Lauzer and Mathieu Lussier, but also their fine collaboration in the realisation of the interplay between the two solo parts. The orchestra delivers fine support and shows its understanding of Telemann's idiom in the Overture in G. Often non-German ensembles miss the point with regard to articulation and dynamics, but the Arion orchestre baroque's interpretation is spot-on, undoubtedly also thanks to Alexander Weimann, who is a seasoned interpreter of a wide variety of repertoire, including music by German composers. This undoubtedly has something to do with his own German roots.

In short, this is a meaningful and enjoyable addition to the growing Telemann discography.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Vincent Lauzer
Arion orchestre baroque

CD Reviews