musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Double Concerti for Winds and Strings"

Dir: Jörg-Michael Schwarz

rec: Jan 21 - 25, 2013, Stamford, CT, St John's Lutheran Church
Bridge - 9421 (© 2013) (64'42"")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Concerto for recorder, transverse flute, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 52,e1)bdfgkmno; Concerto for transverse flute, violin, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 52,e3)cfghkmno; Concerto for 2 transverse flutes, bassoon, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 52,e2)cdefgkmno; Concerto for trumpet, violin, cello obbligato, strings and bc in D (TWV 53,D5)afghiklmno; Concerto for 2 violins, strings and bc in G (TWV 52,G1)fgklmno; Concerto à 6 for 2 violins, strings and bc in G (TWV 52,G2)fghjlmno

David Kjar, trumpeta; Matthias Maute, recorderb, transverse flutec; Sophie Larivière, transverse fluted; Andrew Schwartz, bassoone; Jörg-Michael Schwarzf, Karen Marie Marmerg, Christoph Timpeh, Lisa Rautenbergi, violin; Risa Browder, violinj, violak; Daniel Elyar, violal; John Moran, cellom; Anne Trout, double bassn; Dongsok Shin, harpsichordo

Georg Philipp Telemann composed a considerable number of concertos for one, two or three solo instruments. However, the writing of such music didn't come natural to him. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, the form of the solo concerto was a product of the Italian style, whereas Telemann from an early stage in his career had a strong preference for the French style. Secondly, he was a skilled player of most instruments in vogue in his time, but probably not a real virtuoso on anyone of them. Among his earliest works in this department are concertos for two violins, including the two recorded here, which he composed when he was Kapellmeister in Eisenach. Among the members of the chapel was Pantaleon Hebenstreit, who has become most famous for his invention of the pantaleon, a large type of hammer dulcimer. He was also a virtuoso on the violin. "So when we had to play a concerto together, I locked myself up for several days before, violin in hand, shirtsleeve rolled up on the left arm, and with strong ointments for my nerves, and gave myself lessons so that I would be somewhat able to rise up against his power", Telemann wrote.

The two double concertos from his Eisenach period are different in their scoring. The Concerto in G (TWV 52,G2) has the more or less 'conventional' scoring of two solo violins, two tutti violins, viola and bc. The Concerto TWV 52,G1 is different. It has a five-part texture: the two violins which play solo participate in the tutti playing in unisono, whereas the viola part is split into two, one in the treble, the other in the alto clef. This scoring was probably the reason that Rebel opted for a performance in which the solo violins are not supported by additional violins in the ritornellos.

The scoring of the Concerto in D (TWV 53,D5) is also notable. It has been ranked among the triple concertos in the Telemann catalogue, but the cello hardly plays a solo role; only in a few passages does it move away from the bass line. The role of the trumpet is also limited; it has no extended solo episodes, and in the adagio keeps silent. One could also call this a double or even a solo concerto. In the tutti scoring the violas are again split into two independent parts, whereas the tutti violins are split into three. One copy has been found in Dresden, and it seems likely that the virtuosic solo part was written for Johann Georg Pisendel, the star violinist of the Dresden chapel. Both the fast movements include passages with double-stopping. This work is in three movements, following the Vivaldian concerto model. It is the only concerto in this programme to have three movements.

The triple Concerto in e minor (TWV 52,e2) is from a cycle of six which Telemann composed in Frankfurt. These are all scored for two transverse flutes, a bass instrument - bassoon or chalcedon (a kind of bass lute) -, strings and bc. These have a strong French flavour; the concluding menuet of this particular concerto is a menuet en rondeau. In the second movement Telemann makes use of a Polish dance. His love of Polish folk music is well documented. He himself described his compositional development as follows: "First it was the Polish, followed by the French, church, chamber, and operatic styles, and then what is called the Italian style". Copies of these concertos have been preserved in Dresden and in Darmstadt. The presence in Dresden suggests that one of the flute parts could have been played by the French-born virtuoso Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin.

Telemann composed quite a number of concertos with one or more parts for the transverse flute. In the early decades of the 18th century it was quickly overshadowing the recorder and became a quite fashionable instrument, also among amateurs. Moreover, the fact that it was especially associated with the French style must have made it even more attractive to Telemann. The Concerto in e minor (TWV 52,e1) juxtaposes the 'old-fashioned', 'German' recorder and the 'modern', 'French' transverse flute. It is one of the most popular pieces by Telemann, and rightly so. In the last movement Telemann once again gives in to his love for Polish music.

In his concertos with four movements Telemann takes the Corellian sonata da chiesa as its model. Corelli's influence is also present in the Concerto in e minor (TWV 52,e3) for transverse flute and violin. It is in five movements: fast - slow - fast - slow - fast. The middle presto moves without interruption to the following adagio which is a kind of bridge to the closing allegro. Although this is a double concerto, the violin clearly has the lead; the flute doesn't participate in the presto.

Rebel delivers exciting performances. Its director, Jörg-Michael Schwarz, has his roots in the German early music world and once played in Musica antiqua Köln. The latter's influence is clearly noticeable. If you are acquainted with the former German ensemble's recordings you know what to expect: dramatic, strongly contrasting interpretations, really fast and really slow tempi, strong dynamic shading and a considerable amount of ornamentation. This is anything but middle-of-the-road, and that is especially important as Telemann's concertos are - with some exceptions - not that well-known. If this disc can't convince the skeptical listener that these concertos are first-rate stuff then nothing will.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

Relevant links:


CD Reviews