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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Music for Flute"

Barthold Kuijken, transverse flute
René Jacobs, altoa; Sigiswald Kuijken, violinb, viola da gambac; Wieland Kuijken, viola da gambad, celloe; Richte van der Meer, cellof; Johan Huysg, Robert Kohnenh, harpsichord

rec: Oct 1978, Mielsen (B), Sint-Stephanuskerk (CD 1); Oct 1980 (CD 4*) & June 1981 (CD 4**), Brussels, Eglise Protestante de Bruxelles (Chapelle Royale); May & Sept 1994, Haarlem, Doopsgezinde Kerk (CD 2,3)
Accent - ACC 24322 (4 CDs) (R) (© 2016) (48'16" / 67'27" / 70'15" / 43'55")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

CD 1 Twelve Fantasias for transverse flute without bass (TWV 40,2-13)
Fantasia No. 1 in A (TWV 40,2); Fantasia No. 2 in a minor (TWV 40,3); Fantasia No. 3 in b minor (TWV 40,4); Fantasia No. 4 in B flat (TWV 40,5); Fantasia No. 5 in C (TWV 40,6); Fantasia No. 6 in d minor (TWV 40,7); Fantasia No. 7 in D (TWV 40,8); Fantasia No. 8 in e minor (TWV 40,9); Fantasia No. 9 in E (TWV 40,10); Fantasia No. 10 in f sharp minor (TWV 40,11); Fantasia No. 11 in G (TWV 40,12); Fantasia No. 12 in g minor (TWV 40,13
CD 2 Sonate metodiche a Flauto traversodh [2]
Sonata No. 1 in g minor (TWV 41,g3); Sonata No. 2 in A (TWV 41,A4); Sonata No. 3 in e minor (TWV 41,e2); Sonata No. 4 in D (TWV 41,D3); Sonata No. 5 in a minor (TWV 41,a2); Sonata No. 6 in G (TWV 41,G4)
CD 3 Continuation des Sonates méthodiquesdh [3]
Sonata No. 7 in b minor (TWV 41,h3); Sonata No. 8 in c minor (TWV 41,c3); Sonata No. 9 in E (TWV 41,E5); Sonata No. 10 in B flat (TWV 41,B5); Sonata No. 11 in d minor (TWV 41,d2); Sonata No. 12 in C (TWV 41,C3);
CD 4 Ihr Völker, hört (TWV 1,921), cantataafg [1]**; Sonata for transverse flute, two viole da gamba and bc in G (TWV 43,G12)cdh*; Suite VI for transverse flute, violin and bc in d minor (TWV 42,d3)beh [4]*

Sources: [1] Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst, 1725/26 [2] Sonate metodiche, 1728; [3] Continuation des sonates méthodiques, 1732; [4] Six Concerts et Six Suites, 1734

Last year's commemoration of the death of Georg Philipp Telemann in 1767 has resulted in a stream of new recordings as well as reissues of productions from the past. The present set of four discs is a tribute to both Telemann and the flautist Barthold Kuijken. Together with his brothers and some of his colleagues, such as Gustav Leonhardt and Robert Kohnen, he played a crucial role in the revival of the music of Telemann at a time that he was not universally appreciated. Much has changed since the 1970s and 1980s, since today Telemann is one of the most frequently performed and recorded composers of the baroque era.

The combination of Telemann and the flute bears witness to the prominent place of this instrument in the composer's oeuvre. There are two explanations for this. The first is that Telemann composed most of his chamber music for amateurs. Among them the flute became the most popular instrument in the course of his career. The second reason is that Telemann had a preference for the French style, and in France the flute was one of the most revered instruments. It is no coincidence that Telemann gave the flute a prominent part in his so-called 'Paris quartets'.

In his fantasias for flute without a bass which fill the first disc of this set, Telemann could well have been inspired by the treatise L'art de préluder by Jacques Martin Hotteterre 'le Romain' of 1719, which included a number of Écos for flute solo. Telemann's set of fantasias was the first of three for a melody instrument without a bass, which he published in the 1730s. It was printed in 1732/33 and was followed by sets of twelve fantasias each for the violin and the viola da gamba respectively. In accordance with the title of 'fantasia' these pieces show quite some variety. The number of movements varies from two (Fantasia No. 1) to seven (Fantasia No. 12). Most of them open with a slow movement, but Fantasia No. 5 begins with an allegro. As in many of his compositions Telemann presents himself here as a representative of the 'mixed taste', the mixture of Italian and French elements.

The second and third discs include a complete recording of two sets of sonatas for transverse flute or violin and basso continuo. The first was published with the Italian title Sonate metodiche, the second with a French title: Continuation des sonates méthodiques (1732). These are not merely collections of sonatas suited for amateurs. Telemann also had a pedagogical purpose: these sonatas are instructions in the art of ornamentation. He wrote out all the ornaments of the first movements on a separate stave. It is notable that the scoring of the first set mentions the violin first and the flute second, whereas in the second set it is the other way around. The liner-notes state that "the twelve sonatas are suitable for both instruments, and that Telemann's ever present commercial instinct led him to write music which would attract the largest possible public". The change in the order of instruments mentioned on the title page could well be further prove that Telemann here recognizes the growing popularity of the flute.

The two sets show similarities and differences. Both include six sonatas, three in the major and three in the minor. The keys in the second set are entirely different from those in the first; no key is used more than once. In the first set Telemann follows the model of the Corellian sonata da chiesa: all the sonatas are in four movements, in the order slow - fast - slow - fast. The second set is different: every sonata is in five movements, and the order differs. All of them open with a movement in a slow (largo) or moderate (andante) movement, but the others are in various orders. In some the second and third movements are fast and slow respectively, but elsewhere the opening movement is followed by two fast pieces. Remarkable are several uncommon titles in both sets. The third movement of the Sonata No. 5 and the fourth movement of the Sonata No. 8 are called ondeggiando, something like 'swaying'. Elsewhere we find titles such as cortesemente, cunando and - a little less unusual - con tenerezza.

The last disc offers two instrumental pieces and a cantata. The Suite in d minor is from a set of six concertos and six suites for various numbers and combinations of instruments, which was printed in 1734. This particular suite is in seven movements; the first is divided into a number of contrasting sections. The scoring is for the then common combination of flute and violin. The Quartet in G is a specimen of a genre which was highly revered at the time. Telemann was greatly admired for his quartets; another composer who contributed to the genre was Johann Friedrich Fasch. The scoring of this particular quartet is rather uncommon and testifies to Telemann's French leanings: transverse flute, two viole da gamba and basso continuo.

The cantata Ihr Völker, hört is from the collection Harmonischer Gottesdienst, which includes cantatas for every Sunday and feast day of the ecclesiastical year and could be used both in church and at home. The scoring is for a high or a low voice, one melody instrument (recorder, flute, oboe or violin) and basso continuo. Most cantatas comprise two dacapo arias, embracing a rather long recitative, but the structure of this cantata - written for Epiphany - is different. It opens with a short introduction by transverse flute and basso continuo, and then the voice enters, not with the aria but with a short recitative. Then the flute returns with an instrumental episode which leads to the dacapo aria. The recitative is also remarkable as after a while the flute enters, when the singer refers to the sunrise and sunset and various things happening in nature. After a while the flute withdraws and the singer says: "But what silence now". This has a quite dramatic effect, and here we are reminded that Telemann was one of Germany's main opera composers.

This comes very well to the fore in René Jacobs' performance. Today he is one of the main conductors of opera productions, but it is fair to say that he was born for the theatre. His performances as a young singer were always dramatic, as is the case here. One would wish singers of our time would listen to this. This reissue offers them the chance. This whole set can only be strongly commended. Barthold Kuijken was and still is one of the main exponents of the historical flute. He delivers masterful performances in the pieces recorded here, whether in the fantasias - where he works out the contrasts between the movements quite well - or in the sonatas with basso continuo. His breathing and speech-like style of playing are a delight to listen to. Very nice is the subtle vibrato - as an ornament - in the Quartet in G, both in the flute and in the two viol parts.

Above all this is another momument for one of the greatest composers of the late baroque period.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

Barthold Kuijken

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