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Recorder sonatas

[I] Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "The Recorder Sonatas"
Erik Bosgraaf, recorder; Francesco Corti, harpsichord
rec: April 8 - 10, 2015, Burgum (NL), Kruiskerk
Brilliant Classics - 95247 (© 2015) (66'16")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Sonata in C (TWV 41,C2) [2]; Sonata in C (TWV 41,C5) [3]; Sonata in d minor (TWV 41,d4) [3]; Sonata in F (TWV 41,F2) [2]; Sonata in f minor (TWV 41,f1) [2]; Sonata in f minor (TWV 41,f2); Sonata in B flat (TWV 41,B3) [2]; Sonatina in c minor (TWV 41,c2) [1]; Sonatina in a minor TWV 41,a4) [1]

Sources: [1] Neue Sonatinen, [n.d.]; [2] Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728/29; [3] Essercizii Musici, 1740

[II] "Baroque Passion"
Elisabeth Schwanda, recordera; Bernward Lohr, harpsichord
rec: Sept 14 - 16, 2015, Hanover-Kleefeld, Stephansstift (church)
Rondeau - ROP6107 (© 2016) (61'31")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Sonata in e minor (BWV 1034)a; Johann Gottlieb GOLDBERG (1727-1756): Prelude in C; George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): Sonata in d minor (HWV 367a); Johann Adolph HASSE (1699-1783): Sonata in F; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Sonata in C (TWV 41,C5)a [1]; Sonata in e minor (TWV 41,e2)a

Source: [1] Georg Philipp Telemann, Essercizii Musici, 1740

Recorder players often complain about a lack of repertoire. There is at least one composer who doesn't give them any reason to complain. Georg Philipp Telemann composed a large number of pieces of all kinds for recorder or with substantial recorder parts. In addition a number of pieces from his pen are intended for any instrument as desired, including the recorder. The present disc includes the complete sonatas for recorder and basso continuo from his pen.

A number of them were included in collections which Telemann often published himself. They were intended for a wide circle of - mostly non-professional - recorder players from all echelons of society. The periodical he published in 1728/29, Der getreue Music-Meister, was typical for the time: periodicals were the preferred way representatives of the Enlightenment disseminated their views. The various movements were spread over several issues in order to increase sales.

An important collection of chamber music was the Essercizii Musici which was probably put together in the 1720s. It includes twelve solo sonatas for various instruments, including two for recorder, and twelve trio sonatas. The least-known collection represented here is the Neue Sonatinen which could be identical with some works Telemann advertised in 1731. Four of the six sonatinas are for violin, two for recorder, bassoon or cello. Unfortunately only the solo parts have been preserved. Two of the violin sonatas could be reconstructed on the basis of an arrangement found in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden. These two sonatas are examples of pieces which can be played on another instrument than originally intended.

As the repertoire for the recorder is relatively limited, there is little chance that a disc with recorder music includes first recordings. That is not the case here either. But one piece is relatively seldom played: the Sonata in f minor (TWV 41,f2). It is part of a manuscript of mostly German sonatas preserved in the library of the Brussels conservatoire. There are some doubts about its authenticity, but in his liner-notes David Lasocki suggests it is a piece from early in Telemann's career.

At that time he became acquainted with folk music, especially from Poland and Moravia. This had a lasting influence on his development as a composer. Like other composers he was a representative of the 'mixed taste', the mingling of Italian and French features with the German contrapuntal tradition. To that he added elements of folk music, which are also included in several of the sonatas recorded here.

Some music lovers may think that Telemann was the composer of easy-listening stuff. Think again and listen to, for instance, the opening movement from the Sonata in f minor (TWV 41,f1) - a piece for recorder or bassoon - which is called triste and includes quite some chromaticism. The Sonata in c minor (TWV 41,c2) - one of the Neue Sonatinen - closes with a vivace which is characterised by frequent modulations. Another expressive movement is the larghetto from the Sonata in C (TWV 41,C5). There are also some interesting textures, for instance the Sonata in B flat (TWV 41,B3), which is entirely written in canon at the unison. In the second movement of the Sonata in f minor I just mentioned episodes for the recorder alternate with passages for the basso continuo.

I already indicated that the music on this disc is available in other recordings. I would like to mention here a set of six discs on the Swedish label BIS which includes Telemann's complete output for recorder. However, this disc is a real winner and deserves to be part of the collection of every recorder or Telemann aficionado. Erik hBosgraaf is one of the world's most gifted recorder players, a real virtuoso but also someone with a good sense of style. In live concerts he can go a little overboard once in a while, for instance with exaggerated ornamentation or breakneck speeds. There is nothing of that here. Some movements are taken at high speed but never at the cost of a clear articulation. Only in some movements he includes a very high note which is probably not really needed, but all in all there is hardly anything to complain about. This is a fine demonstration of the art of the recorder and of Telemann's almost limitless creativity. And I should not forget to mention the outstanding support by Francesco Corti at the harpsichord, who is in every way Bosgraaf's congenial partner.

The second disc is a mixture of pieces originally conceived for the recorder (Telemann, Sonata in C; Handel) and pieces which were intended for a different instrument, in this case the transverse flute. The latter concerns the Sonata in e minor by Telemann and Bach's sonata in the same key, BWV 1034. The Telemann sonata is from a set which Telemann published in 1728 under the title Sonate Metodiche. It is notable that in the first movements Telemann writes out the ornamentation on a separate stave. From this one may conclude that this collection had a pedagogical purpose. That was quite common at the time and also reflects the increasing popularity of music making among amateurs who needed instruction in performance practice. For modern performers this kind of instructions are most useful. The Sonate Metodiche are scored for transverse flute or violin, but Elisabeth Schwanda's performance shows that at least the Sonata in e minor does well on the recorder. The same goes for Bach's Sonata in e minor (BWV 1034) which she plays at the voice flute; this allows to play it in the original key.

Handel's chamber music is large and gives scholars considerable problems. Especially the scoring is a subject of debate; often it is not clear for which instrument a sonata was conceived, partly thanks to editions by Walsh who was rather unscrupulous in his treatment of Handel's compositions. The Sonata in d minor (HWV 367a) is generally considered being intended for the recorder.

Elisabeth Schwanda delivers good performances but she is a little less adventurous than Bosgraaf. That comes to the fore in Telemann's Sonata in C which is included in both discs. The opening movement is a sequence of slow and fast sections; Bosgraaf creates stronger contrasts between the two and as a result his performance is more dramatic than Schwanda's. However, her programme as a whole is attractive, also thanks to the inclusion of two keyboard items. Johann Gottlieb Goldberg's name will always be connected to Bach's Goldberg variations. Whether the stories about his involvement in the performance of this work are historically correct will probably always remain unclear. But he was also a composer in his own right who has left a small but substantial oeuvre of mostly keyboard and chamber music. One of them is the Prelude in C, which - like all his keyboard works - shows Bach's influence. In comparison Hasse was a more modern composer whose instrumental music is written in the galant idiom. One of the features of many keyboard works from the mid-18th century is the domination of the right hand; the left hand is mostly reduced to the role of accompaniment. That is also the case with the Sonata in F which comprises three movements. These two pieces are given fine performances by Bernward Lohr who also is Ms Schwanda's congenial partner in the recorder sonatas. He plays the copy of a harpsichord by Christian Zell.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

Relevant links:

Erik Bosgraaf
Francesco Corti
Bernward Lohr
Elisabeth Schwanda

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