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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): Solo & Trio Sonatas

[I] "Trio Sonatas"
Erik Bosgraaf, recorder; Dmitry Sinkovsky, violin; Balász Máté, cello; Alexandra Koreneva, harpsichord
rec: July 2016, Fertöd (HU), Esterháza Palace
Berlin Classics - 0301006BC (© 2017) (51'32")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Duet for recorder and violin in B flat (TWV 40,111) [1]; Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in d minor (TWV 42,d10); Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in F (TWV 42,F8); Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in f (TWV 42,f2); Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in a minor (TWV 42,a1); Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in a minor (TWV 42,a4) [2]

Sources: [1] Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728-29; [2] Essercizii Musici, 1739/40

[II] "Sonate ŕ flauto solo"
Tripla Concordia
rec: July 23 - 25, 2016, Cumiana (To), Confraternitŕ dei Santi Rocco e Sebastiano
Arcana - A 433 (© 2017) (56'14")
Liner-notes: E/F/I
Cover, track-list & booklet

Sonata for recorder and bc in d minor (TWV 41.d4) [2]; Sonata for transverse flute in e minor (TWV 41,e11) (transp to g minor); Sonata for transverse flute/violin and bc in d minor (TWV 41,d3) (transp to g minor) [1]; Sonata for transverse flute/violin and bc in F (TWV 41,F3) [1]; Sonata for transverse flute/violin and bc in A (TWV 41,A5) (transp to C) [1]; Sonata for transverse flute/violin and bc in b minor (TWV 41,h5) [1]

Sources: [1] XII Solos ŕ Violon ou Traversičre, avec la Basse chiffrée, 1734; [2] Essercizii musici, 1739/40

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


The trio sonata was one of the main forms of instrumental music in the baroque period. Numerous pieces of this kind - scored for two melody instruments and basso continuo - were produced from the last quarter of the 17th century to the third quarter of the next. Its basic structure had been laid down by Arcangelo Corelli, but although most composers modelled their trio sonatas after his, they took the freedom to deviate from them, for instance in the number and the order of movements. The first disc under review here includes all the (extant) trio sonatas for recorder and violin by Georg Philipp Telemann. They are all in four movements, and mostly they follow the order of Corelli's models: slow - fast - slow - fast. The exception is the Sonata in d minor (TWV 42,d10), which opens with an allegro, which is followed by an adagio. The last two movements are both in a fast tempo: allegro and presto.

This particular sonata is a special case in the programme. It is one of the three sonatas which have been preserved in manuscript. This sonata is kept in the library of the Royal Conservatory in Brussels. Its authenticity has been questioned, in particular because of the parallel octaves between the violin and the bass in the opening movement. According to Klaus Hofmann, the sonata was written by Pierre Prowo, who was organist in Altona, near Hamburg, from 1738 until his death in 1757. The Landesbilbliothek Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Schwerin owns a copy of the sonata which mentions Prowo as the composer. However, in the liner-notes to the present disc, Thiemo Wind questions the conclusions of Hofmann. "Other compositions show Prowo to be an incorrigible dilettante, unimpeded by much imagination". Wind suggests that the two melody parts were in circulation without the basso continuo. Prowo added his own, and then put his name on the entire work as the composer. Someone copied the melody parts, kept the basso continuo and restored the name of the original composer: Telemann. For this recording Wind wrote a new basso continuo part for the first movement and corrected passages in the bass of the remaining movements.

The scoring of these trio sonatas can hardly surprise, even though the recorder was in the process of becoming obsolete in Telemann's time. But especially among amateurs the instrument was still quite popular, and as Telemann always had the amateur in mind, when composing chamber music, he continued to write music for the recorder. The Sonata in a minor (TWV 42,a4) is part of one of his major collections of chamber music, Essercizzi Musici. Another important collection of music for amateurs was the periodical Der getreue Music-Meister, a series of instrumental and vocal pieces for different scorings. This includes the Duet in B flat, which is added as a kind of bonus to the programme. Such pieces were technically not too challenging, but interesting enough for good amateurs. The duet ends with a vivace e staccato, which is certainly no easy stuff.

These sonatas are more than just musical entertainment. The Sonata in a minor (TWV 42,a1) and the Sonata in f minor (TWV 42,f2) both include a movement of much expression, a grave and an adagio respectively. Telemann loved to pay tribute to the traditional music from Poland and Moravia he had become acquainted with early in his career. Specimens are the vivace from the Sonata in a minor (TWV 42,a4) and the presto which closes the Sonata in d minor (TWV 42,d10). The artists are keen to explore these effects. Generally they like to emphasize the contrasts between the movements, for instance by playing really slow and very fast. They also create strong dynamic contrasts. The tone of Dmitry Sinkowsky's violin may not be to everyone's taste, but I like his less than sweet approach to Telemann's violin parts. Bosgraaf's playing is energetic and dynamic as ever, fortunately without going overboard.

As I have stated above, the recorder plays an important role in Telemann's oeuvre. The trio sonatas are just a small part of his output for or with recorder. Moreover, many pieces which were originally intended for other instruments, can be played on the recorder. Sometimes they have to be transposed to a different key, but that was common practice at the time. That does not mean that every sonata does equally well on any instrument. The second disc reviewed here, attests to that.

Four of the six sonatas selected by Lorenzo Cavasanti are from a collection of twelve sonatas for transverse flute or violin and basso continuo, printed in 1734. They were dedicated to three amateur musicians from Hamburg, the brothers Rudolph, Hieronymus and Johann Wilhelm Burmeister. They also were among the subscribers to Telemann's Musique de table in 1733. These sonatas follow strictly the model laid down by Arcangelo Corelli. However, in only three of them the second movement is fugal, as was the rule in Corelli's sonatas.

One of them is the Sonata in b minor. The opening movement, with the character indication tardi e semplicemente, has a somewhat lamenting character, due to some chromatic figures. The dotted rhythms in the third movement refer to the French style, which Telemann so greatly admired, and the imitation of the bagpipe lends the closing allegro assai a strongly folk-like character. The Sonata in d minor (TWV 41,d3), which is transposed to g minor here, opens with another lamento, which is expressed by chromatic descending figures and general pauses. It is here that the recorder shows its limitations, especially with regard to dynamics. The sighing character of musical figures comes off much better on instruments as the transverse flute and the violin. The recorder's sound is just too straightforward. It deals much better with the folk music features of the second movement.

The Sonata in A (TWV 41,A5), transposed here to C major, seems to refer to the countryside and some movements have a rather pastoral character. It opens with a siciliano with the tempo indication largo. The third movement is called andante semplicemente, "featuring what Jeanne Swack has termed the 'pastoral echo', a brief melodic motive st ated three consecutive times with a fading dynamic level (forte, piano, and pianissimo)", Steven Zohn states in his liner-notes. Again, these dynamic levels cannot be fully realised on the recorder. In the last movement Zohn recognizes the features of a dacapo aria. The same goes for the concluding movement from the Sonata in F (TWV 41,F3), a giga with the tempo indication allegro. The second movement, vivace, has again a folkloristic character, whereas the third movement is an expressive sarabanda, with the tempo indication grave. One of its features is the frequent imitation between the recorder and the bass.

The Sonata in e minor (TWV 41,e11), originally for transverse flute and basso continuo, has never been published and is part of a collection of solo sonatas and duets for various instruments, preserved in Brussels. It is thought to date from the 1720s. Elements of the concerto feature in the second movement, which is followed by another sarabanda, leading to the concluding minuet. The disc ends with the Sonata in d minor (TWV 41,d4), which is part of the collection of sonatas and trios Telemann advertised in 1740 under the title of Essercizii Musici. However, research has resulted in the assumption that the music was written between 1726 and 1728. This sonata is the only piece on this disc specifically intended for the recorder. It opens with an affettuoso; the two fast movements are connected by a short and quite dramatic grave.

Lorenzo Cavasanti and his colleagues deliver fine performances, despite shortcomings in some movements, which are largely the effect of the use of a recorder. Maybe he should have made a different selection from the collection of 1734. However, that does not withhold me from recommending this disc to lovers of the recorder. They will certainly enjoy what is on offer here. After all, Telemann's music is hard to resist.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Erik Bosgraaf
Dmitry Sinkovsky
Tripla Concordia

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