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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "The Oboe Album"

Il Gardellino

rec: June 1995, Melsen (B), St Stefanusa; Sept 2002, Bolland (B), Eglise St Apollinaireb; Feb 2004c & Nov 2005d, Haarlem (NL), Doopsgezinde Kerk
Accent - ACC 24314 (2 CDs) (R) (© 2016) (2.14'20")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in f minor (TWV 51,f2)b; Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 51,e1)b; Concerto for oboe d'amore, strings and bc in A (TWV 51,A12)c; Concerto for transverse flute, oboe d'amore, viola d'amore, strings and bc in E (TWV 53,E1)c; Concerto for trumpet, two oboes and bc in D (TWV 43,D7)a; Partita IV for oboe and bc in g minor (TWV 41,g2)a [1]; Sonata for oboe and bc in a minor (TWV 41,a3)a [2]; Sonata for oboe and bc in g minor (TWV 41,g6)a [3]; Sonata for 2 oboes and bc in c minor (TWV 42,c4)a; Trio for oboe, harpsichord and bc in E flat (TWV 42,Es3)a [4]; Trio for oboe, violin and bc in g minor (TWV 42,g5)d [4]; Trio for transverse flute, oboe and bc in d minor (TWV 42,d4)d [4]

[1] Die kleine Cammer-music, 1716; [2] Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728/29; [3] Musique de table, 1733; [4] Essercizii Musici, 1740

Jan De Winne, transverse flutecd; Taka Kitazato, oboea; Marcel Ponseele, oboe, oboe d'amore; Per-Olov Lindeke, trumpeta; Ryo Terakadobcd, Sophie Gentbc, violin; Mika Akiha, violabc; François Fernandez, viola d'amorec; Richte van der Meera, René Schiffer, cellobcd; Frank Coppieters, double bassc; Fred Jacobs, theorboa; Shalev Ad-Elbcd, Pierre Hantaïa, harpsichord

The oboe takes an important place in the oeuvre of Georg Philipp Telemann. As far as the genre of the solo concerto is concerned, he composed ten concertos for the oboe and three for the oboe d'amore. In addition the Telemann catalogue includes two concertos for oboe and violin and one for two oboi d'amore, six triple concertos with one or two parts for oboe or oboe d'amore and two concertos for four solo instruments with one or two oboe parts. And then we have the chamber music in which we find a considerable number of solo sonatas, trios and quartets with parts for oboe.

The oboe had its origins in France and in the last decades of the 17th century it made its way to other parts of Europe. There were two causes for this. Firstly, many courts across Europe were so impressed by the splendour of the French court under Louis XIV that they aimed at imitating the music which was such an important part of it. The increasing interest in French music made some musicians and composers make their way to France to listen and study and to learn to write in the same style. In Germany they were known as Lullistes. As an effect of this development court orchestras were modelled after the French orchestra which included oboes which mostly played colla parte with the violins. Secondly, when Louis XIV in 1685 evoked the Edict of Nantes and declared Protestantism illegal many Huguenots left France, among them musicians and instrument makers, and this contributed to the dissemination of the oboe across the continent.

Telemann kept his distance from the solo concerto. It was a product of the Italian style, and this had some features he didn't particularly like. He wrote that in concertos of some of his contemporaries he encountered "many difficulties and awkward leaps but little harmony and even poorer melody. The first qualities I hated because they were uncomfortable for my hand and bow, and owing to the lack of the latter qualities, to which my ears were accustomed through French music, I could neither love them nor desire to imitate them". His output in this genre is considerable, though, and among them a respectable number for oboe. This twofer includes two of them. The Concerto in f minor is one of the relatively few which is in the form which was laid down by Vivaldi: three movements - fast, slow, fast - with strings playing the ritornelli. However, in the largo the oboe dominates the proceedings from start to finish, with the strings reduced to a supportive role. The oboe also opens the closing movement; after a couple of bars the strings intervene. The Concerto in e minor is modelled after the pre-Vivaldian concertos by the likes of Albinoni; its four movements root in the sonata da chiesa. This was the form Telemann preferred for his concertos.

This compilation also includes two concertos for the oboe d'amore which is a minor third lower than the 'normal' oboe. At the time it was a relatively new instrument; it had been developed in the second decade of the 18th century. It was mostly not used in an ensemble but as a solo and obbligato instrument. Leipzig was the centre of oboe d'amore making; one of the makers was J.H. Eichentopf and Marcel Ponseele plays a copy of one of his instruments. The special tone of the oboe d'amore is effectively explored in the Concerto in A, again in four movements. The third movement is quite tragic in character. Telemann often combined instruments of a different character, such as the violin and the bassoon. That is also the case in the Concerto in E for transverse flute, oboe d'amore and viola d'amore. The viola d'amore became into vogue at the end of the 17th century, especially in South Germany and Austria, and disappeared at the end of the 18th. Within that relatively short span of time it had a strong appeal, though. A considerable number of composers explored its expressive qualities for music of various kinds. Among them are solo concertos, but in particular chamber music. Telemann is one of the very few composers of his time who included it in a concerto. So did his colleague Graupner who also composed a triple concerto for this scoring, but then with a so-called flauto d'amore instead of the usual transverse flute. Whereas the opening andante is dominated by counterpoint the second movement is largely homophonic, in the tutti the ensemble even plays in unison. In the last movement Telemann makes use of the French rondeau form.

The rest of the programme is devoted to chamber music. Telemann was one of the most prolific composers of chamber music of his time. He published more collections of chamber music than any other German composer. The main reason was that he wanted to provide the growing number of musical amateurs with good music, which meant that it couldn't be too complicated. One of the earliest collections is Die kleine Cammer-music, a set of six partitas for one instrument and bc. Although they can be played on various instruments as Telemann indicated at the title page they were essentially intended for the oboe. He also reveals how he looked at this set: "[In] a style light and melodious so that the beginner can practise with them and the Virtuoso can also perform them". It is very likely that he had specific players in mind as he knew several professional oboists personally.

These words I quoted show that Telemann had an educational purpose as well. That was a feature of the Enlightenment which emerged in the first quarter of the 18th century. One way of educating people was the publication of periodicals: they discussed all sorts of subjects which the bourgeoisie was interested in. Telemann published a periodical in the years 1728/29 under the name of Der getreue Music-Meister: every issue included pieces of different character and the various movements of a sonata were preferably divided over several issues to encourage those interested to keep purchasing them in order to complete a sonata. The Sonata in a minor is an example of Telemann's preference of the goûts réünis, the mixture of Italian and French elements. One of the most important collections in Telemann's oeuvre is the Musique de table which appeared in 1733 in three volumes. Many performers and composers from Germany and from other countries in Europe subscribed; the total number of subscriptions was 206 which attests to Telemann's repute as one of the major composers of his time in Europe. Every volume includes an orchestral overture, a concerto with two or three solo instruments, a solo sonata, a trio sonata and a quartet. The Sonata in g minor is from the third volume. The four movements have Italian character descriptions but the first two are in fact French dances, bourrée and menuet respectively.

Essercizii Musici was the last collection Telemann published himself. It appeared in 1739/40 and contains sonatas for a solo instrument as well as trios for two obligato instruments, both with basso continuo. In particular the trios, three of which have been included here, show a great variety of instrumental combinations. The trios for oboe with either transverse flute or violin are taken from this collection. Most remarkable are the trios in which the harpsichord is acting as an obbligato instrument, without replacing the basso continuo. From these we get the Trio in E flat for oboe, obbligato harpsichord and bc. The bass part is played by the theorbo (with an additional string bass).

This compilation is rounded off by two separate pieces. The Sonata in c minor is for two oboes and bc and an example of Telemann's French leanings as the four movements have all French character indications. The Concerto in D is a concerto da camera for trumpet, two oboes and bc in four movements. The oboes take the role of the ripieno strings but have more weight than just that; in the third movement, a siciliano, the trumpet keeps silent.

This is a compilation of four different recordings. The two oboe concertos were part of "Baroque Oboe Concertos" (ACC 22156), the two concertos with oboe d'amore appeared on a disc devoted to "Concerti d'Amore" (ACC 24151). The trio sonatas for oboe with violin or flute were included in a disc with "Cantatas for Bass" (ACC 24167). These are probably still available. The second disc of this set was released as long ago as 1996 and may not be on the market anymore.

I would recommend anyone interested in Telemann to look for the original discs. For others or in case you may not be able to lay your hands on the original discs this set is something you should not miss. Since decades Marcel Ponseele is one of the world's finest players of the baroque oboe. His tone is pure and sweet and his playing is expressive and, when needed, playful. His dynamic shading is refined and so is his ornamentation. One of the hallmarks of his interpretation is that it is based on a thorough knowledge of baroque rhetorics. His ensemble acts on the same wavelength and there are some excellent contributions by, for instance, Jan De Winne on the transverse flute, François Fernandez on the viola d'amore and Ryo Terakado on the violin. The only issue is that the obbligato harpsichord in the Trio in E flat is hardly audible.

In short, this set of discs is a feast for the ear.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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