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Johann Friedrich FASCH, George Frideric HANDEL, Georg Philipp TELEMANN: Solos & Trio Sonatas

[I] "Telemann, Händel, Fasch"
Ensemble L'Ornamento
rec: Sept 5 - 8, 2012, Dorneck (CH), Kirche Nuglar-St. Pantaleon
Ars Produktion - ARS 38 136 (© 2013) (69'00")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758): Quartet for oboe, violin, bassoon and bc in d minor (FWV L,d6)cdf (ed. S Wienand); George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): Rinaldo (HWV 7) (Vo' far guerra, arr William Babell (c1690-1723) & L'Ornamento)acdf; Sonata for violin and bc in D (HWV 371)c; Sonata for 2 violins [recorder, violin] and bc in F, op. 2,4 (HWV 389)ac; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in a minor (TWV 42,a4)ac [3]; Sonata for recorder, descant viol and bc in g minor (TWV 42,g9)ae; Sonata for 2 recorders and bc in F (TWV 42,F7)ab

Juliane Heutjer, recordera; Katharina Heutjer, recorderb, violinc; Jonathan Pesek, cello; Sebastian Wienand, harpsichord
with: Susanne Regel, oboed; Rebeka Rusó, descant viole; Mélanie Flahaut, bassoonf

[II] Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): "Trio Sonatas for recorder, violin and continuo"
Fabio Biondi, violind; Tripla Concordia
rec: June 29, 1997 (live), Cagliari, Ciostro di S. Domenico
Dynamic - CDS 7667 (R) (© 2013) (52'13")
Liner-notes: E/I
Cover & track-list

Sonata for recorder and bc in f minor (TWV 41,f1) [2]; Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in d minor (TWV 42,d10)d; Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in F (TWV 42,F8)d; Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in f minor (TWV 42,f2)d; Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in a minor (TWV 42,a1)d [1]; Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in a minor (TWV 42,a4)d [3]

Lorenzo Cavasanti, recorder; Caroline Boersma, cello; Sergio Ciomei, harpsichord

Sources: Georg Philipp Telemann, [1] Six Trio, 1718; [2] Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728-29; [3] Essercizii Musici, 1739-40

These two discs bring together three of the main composers of the German baroque. That is to say, Handel is generally not considered a German composer, as he worked most of his life in England and was strongly influenced by the Italian style during the years he stayed in Italy. However, the foundation of his art was laid in Germany and he always remained in contact with his fatherland. Fasch is not as well known today as he should be, although he is given more attention recently. In his time he was one of the leading composers. The fact that a considerable number of his compositions have been preserved in the liberary of the court in Dresden says much about the appreciation of his oeuvre.

The genre of the trio sonata is the core of the programmes of these discs. It was one of the main forms of chamber music in the baroque era. The trio sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli made a lasting impression on the generations to come and were treated as models. Most trio sonatas are in four movements, and one of them, usually the second, is a fugue. Sometimes the number of movements could be extended as is the case with the Sonata in F (HWV 389) by Handel. Telemann also sometimes deviates from the Corellian model: the Sonata in d minor (TWV 42,d10), for instance, begins with a fast movement which is followed by an adagio and two further fast movements.

Telemann was an especially productive composer of trio sonatas. One of the features of his contributions to the genre is the often less than conventional scoring. He loved the combination of instruments of different families, such as recorder and violin or viola da gamba, or the inclusion of instruments which seldom were used as solo instruments, such as the bassoon. The most remarkable scoring is that of the Sonata in F (TWV 42,F7), which combines the recorder and the descant viol. The latter instrument was frequently played in France and known as pardessus de viole. It enjoyed some popularity in Germany for a couple of decades.

Trio sonatas were mostly written for the growing market of amateur performers and are therefore technically not too complicated. In particular Telemann paid much attention to the writing of good melodies which were pleasant for the ear and nice to play. The sonatas on these two discs are good examples. The fast movements are lively and energetic, and include some really catchy melodies. This is music for domestic entertainment, but that doesn't mean that these sonatas are devoid of expression. The grave from the Sonata in a minor (TWV 42,a1) and the affettuoso from the Sonata in a minor (TWV 42,a4) are good examples. The same goes for the slow movements from the Sonata in F (TWV 42,F7), especially the adagio.

These discs also include specimens of two other genres. Solo sonatas were sometimes written for the amateur market, but could also be written for performances by the composers themselves. They are often more technically demanding and have a more individual character. As so many of Handel's instrumental works his Sonata in D (HWV 371) has a theatrical character. It is a rather late work in which Handel reused material from previous compositions, including arias. Telemann's Sonata in f minor (TWV 41,f1) is from the collection Der getreue Music-Meister and was scored for either recorder or bassoon. It begins with a beautiful and expressive triste.

The quartet was especially highly regarded in Germany, and Fasch's contributions to the genre were considered exemplary. His Quartet in d minor, labelled concerto on the disc of Ensemble L'Ornamento, has been preserved incomplete. For this recording the missing violin part has been reconstructed by Sebastian Wienand.

The Ensemble L'Ornamento ends its programme with an arrangement. This probably can't be considered a specific genre, but arrangements were quite common and especially popular among amateurs. In England that certainly was the case with arrangements of music by Handel which was very much in demand. Arrangements of all kinds, for instance for recorder, were made and printed. In particular arias from his operas and later also his oratorios were often the subject of arrangements. William Babell made a name for himself with arrangements of such arias for harpsichord which didn't find unanimous approval. If one listens to his arrangement of Vo' far guerra from the opera Rinaldo that is not hard to understand. Here it is performed in an instrumental arrangement by the ensemble. The vocal part is allocated to the recorder. However, the long and virtuosic passages for the harpsichord have remained intact. As a result this piece is a bit two-faced, and in the end the least convincing part of this disc, even though it is brilliantly played.

Otherwise there is nothing to complain here. The pieces by Handel are well-known, but Fasch's quartet and even some of the trio sonatas by Telemann are not frequently performed and recorded. The performances are outstanding: the artists don't try to show off with exaggerated tempi. The choice of tempi is convincing and makes the content come off to the full. I am especially impressed by the expressive performances of the slow movements, such as the adagio from Telemann's Sonata in F (TWV 42,F7).

I am less satisfied with the recording of Tripla Concordia. Sure, there is much to enjoy here. That goes especially for Lorenzo Cavasanti; previously I have reviewed various recordings by him positively. Caroline Boersma and Sergio Ciomei deliver excellent support. Things look a bit different in regard to Fabio Biondi. In some fast movements his tone is not very subtle - rather unpolished and even scratchy. An example is the very first movement on the programme, from the Sonata in a minor (TWV 42,a1). It is played at breakneck speed - too fast, I would say - and here he produces a rather ugly sound. At such moments he tends to overpower the recorder. In slow movements his playing is more enjoyable. However, the recorder and the violin of the Ensemble L'Ornamento blend much better and Katharina Heutjer overall produces a nicer sound than Biondi.

Tripla Concordia confines itself to trio sonatas for recorder and violin. They have omitted sonatas whose second melody part is for the treble viol, although these are sometimes played at the violin. As a result their disc's playing time is rather short which doesn't speak in its favour either.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

Relevant links:

Ensemble L'Ornamento
Tripla Concordia

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