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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Early Concertos & Sonatas"

Andreas Lackner, trumpeta; Johannes Hinterholzner, hornb; Andrea Rognoni, violinc; Stefano Marcocchi, violad; Stefano Veggetti, celloe
Ensemble Cordia
Dir: Stefano Veggetti

rec: August 7 - 9, 2009, Kiens (A), Pfarrkirche
Brilliant Classics - 94208 ( 2011) (61'17")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Concerto a 4 for two violins, viola and bc in D (TWV 43,D4); Concerto a 4 for two violins, viola and bc in d minor (TWV 43,d2); Concerto for horn, strings and bc in D (TWV 51,D8)b; Concerto for trumpet, violin, cello, strings and bc in D (TWV 53,D5)ace; Concerto for viola, strings and bc in G (TWV 51,G9)d; Sonata for 2 violins, 2 violas and bc in e minor (TWV 44,5)

If you think you know your Telemann, purchase this disc and you will hear music which you probably have never heard before. The best-known piece is the viola concerto. The triple concerto which opens this disc should not be totally unfamiliar either. The other pieces are seldom performed. The whole programme consists of compositions from Telemann's early years. Most of them were not written for the average music-lover from the bourgeoisie.

Take the very first item of the programme. It is scored for three solo instruments: the trumpet, the violin and the cello. It is unlikely any amateur played the trumpet. But what we have here is not so much a triple concerto but a true violin concerto. Its violin part is unusually virtuosic. Telemann was not a great lover of virtuosity, and that is why he always kept a little distant from the solo concerto. Telemann scholar Steven Zohn suggests in his programme notes that this concerto may have been written for Johann Georg Pisendel, the star violinist of the Dresden court orchestra. He also copied a set of parts of this piece. The double-stopping in the first movement is highly unusual in Telemann's oeuvre and pays tribute to the brilliant German violin school of which Pisendel was a representative. The trumpet is silent in the slow movement. In the last movement cellist Stefano Veggetti plays a cadenza; I wonder whether there is an indication for that in the score. Considering that the cello doesn't play a prominent role in this concerto this seems implausible.

The fact that the trumpet is not involved in the slow movement of this concerto doesn't surprise - it was common practice at the time that the trumpet and the horn only participated in fast movements. It is therefore quite surprising that in the Concerto in D the horn plays in all movements, including the largo in the middle. The horn was mostly associated with the hunt, which was one of the main occupations of royalty and aristocracy. Therefore this concerto, like the concerto for two horns in Telemann's Musique de table, can be considered a curtsy to Dresden. Considering the connection to the hunt the involvement of the horn in the slow movement is all the more remarkable. It shows that the horn can play a part of a lyrical and expressive nature.

The Concerto for viola in G may belong to the better-known part of Telemann's oeuvre, it is nevertheless noticeable, especially as the number of viola concertos of the baroque era is very small. This is also Telemann's only concerto for this instrument (apart from a concerto for two violas), probably written on request of a violinist or violist, or - as Steven Zohn suggests - for himself to play. After all, the violin was his principal instrument, and violinists usually were able to play the viola as well. It is a beautiful piece, with a particularly hunting melody in the ritornello of the second movement. It has never been published - like all the compositions on this disc - but was available from Breitkopf in Leipzig in the 1760's, showing that there was a market for such concertos.

The Concertos in D and in d minor (D4 and d2 respectively) are so-called ripieno concertos as we know them from Vivaldi's oeuvre. They are scored for strings and basso continuo, without solo parts. That doesn't mean there are no solo episodes. In the Concerto in d minor, for instance, the viola plays a prominent role in the opening largo, whereas the principals of the first and second violins have solo episodes to play in the next allegro. And in the second movement - without tempo indication - of the Concerto in D the first violin has a quite virtuosic solo as well. The amount of counterpoint in these pieces is notable. This is a feature of Telemann's early compositions and something he would generally avoid in his later works for amateur musicians. The two fast movements of the Concerto in D are fugues.

Counterpoint is also a feature of the Sonata in e minor, scored for two violins, two violas and bc. That scoring is already an indication of its rooting in the past, as five-part string textures are typical for German instrumental music of the 17th century. This sonata also contains some influences of Corelli, someone Telemann admired; he also wrote a series of Corellisierende Sonaten. This sonata was probably written during Telemann's time in Eisenach where he acted as Konzertmeister from 1707 to 1712.

This disc is a model of adventurous and imaginative programming. Right now so many of Telemann's compositions are available on disc that it isn't that easy to find lacunae. The title page of the booklet says "first recording", but that is not quite true. The viola concerto and the triple concerto are available in various recordings. The Concerto in d minor has been recorded by Harmonie Universelle (Eloquentia EL 0502), whose disc contains some other early pieces by Telemann. It is quite possible that the other compositions have also been recorded before. Even so, these specimens of Telemann's early style are not often played and mostly are not that easily obtainable in recordings. That makes this disc a worthwhile and interesting addition to the Telemann discography. Moreover, the playing is of the highest calibre. The ensemble is immaculate, and the soloists make great impression by their playing. This is simply an outstanding disc.

It is a shame that the production is a bit sloppy. The track-list is error-ridden: the triple concerto is not D3, but D5, the viola concerto is not in D, but in G and the catalogue number (43,D4) is also wrong. These errors are corrected in the header of this review.

Johan van Veen ( 2012)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Cordia

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