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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "The Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments Vol. 6"

La Stagione Frankfurt
Dir: Michael Schneider

rec: March 9 - 11, 2018, Cologne, Deutschlandfunk (Kammermusiksaal)
CPO - 555 239-2 (© 2019) (73'24")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto for transverse flute, violin, cello, strings and bc in A (TWV 53,A2) [1]; Concerto for 2 horns, 2 violins, strings and bc in E flat (TWV 54,Es1) [1]; Concerto (Septet) for 3 oboes, 3 violins and bc in B flat (TWV 44,43)a; Concerto (Sonata) for 2 oboes, 2 violins, 2 violas and bc in e minor (TWV 50,4)b; Sinfonia melodica for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings and bc in C (TWV 50,2)

Source: [1] Musique de table, 1733

Karl Kaiser, transverse flute; Annette Spehr, Hans Peter Westermann, Susanne Kohnena, oboe; Ulrich Hübner, Jörg Schulteß, horn; Marita Schaar, bassoon; Ingeborg Scheerer, Katka Ozaki, Fauke Heiwaltb, Julia Huber-Warzecha, Zsuzsanna Hodasz, violin; Katrin Ebert, Hajo Bäß, violin, violab; Andreas Gerhardus, Klaus Bundies, viola; Nicholas Selo, Annette Schneider, cello; Christian Zincke, violone; Sabine Bauer, harpsichord

With this sixth volume, the project concerning the recording of Georg Philipp Telemann's 'grand concertos for mixed instruments' comes to its end. As the names of some pieces and the numbers in the catalogue of Telemann's oeuvre suggests, the works included here are of a various character, and some have a texture which is clearly different from what one expects of a concerto for solo instruments and orchestra.

The very first piece is a good example. It is called Sinfonia melodica and is catalogued among the department with the number 50. This part of Telemann's oeuvre consists of sinfonias, divertimentos and marches. The scorings are different, and so are the number and titles of their respective movements. The Sinfonia melodica in C is scored for two oboes, strings and basso continuo. The track-list also mentions a bassoon, which suggests that this instrument has an obbligato role, but it is not mentioned in the score. It comprises seven movements, most of which are dances with a French title (the exception is the opening vivace assai), and has the character of a suite. Wolfgang Hirschmann, in his liner-notes, points out the stylistic differences between the first movement and the dances. The vivace assai seems to point in the direction of the style associated with the Mannheim school. This can be explained from the late date of composition, the mid-1760s. The dances are much more 'baroque' in style, especially the sarabande. The middle movement is a menuet in the form of a rondeau.

The other piece from this section of the Telemann catalogue is the Concerto or Sonata in e minor. This piece has been preserved in a copy in the library of the court of Hesse-Darmstadt, where Telemann's colleague and friend Christoph Graupner was Kapellmeister for many years. Originally the piece was called concerto, but that title was later 'corrected' into sonata. It is scored for two oboes, two violins, two violas and basso continuo. The split violas suggest it is a rather early piece; the important role of counterpoint, especially in the second movement, called allabreve, also points in this direction. The oboes mostly play colla parte with the violins, but in the middle movement (air), the two oboes play with the basso continuo, in alternation with the two violins.

This is an example of polychoral writing in orchestral music. A more marked specimen of the application of the cori spezzati technique is the Concerto in B flat for three oboes, three violins and basso continuo. It is one of a number of pieces for five, six or seven instruments and basso continuo in the Telemann catalogue, with the number 44. That indicates that it is basically a piece of chamber music, and it is sometimes called septet. It has come down to us in a copy by Johann Samuel Endler, who was vice-Kapellmeister in Darmstadt from the 1740s until Graupner's death, and often acted as a copyist. Here the two groups of instruments are consistently juxtaposed, which creates a true dialogue. Although the copy dates from around 1740, Hirschmann assumes it was written during Telemann's years in Eisenach (1708-1712). In the cantata cycle he composed for the ecclesiastical year 1710-11, Telemann included cantatas with three or four oboe parts, which indicates that the chapel had some very skilled oboists in its ranks.

This concerto is one of Telemann's more familiar pieces, and that also goes for the two remaining works, which are both part of one of Telemann's most famous collection of instrumental music, which he published under the title of Musique de table, in three productions. "Lovers of music can expect in the coming 1733rd year a great instrumental work from the pen of Telemann. It consists of nine heavy pieces with 7, and again of so many light ones with 1, 2, 3, to 4 instruments.... Publication will take place on three occasions, namely Ascension, Michaelmas and Christmas. The names of the subscribers are to be printed with the work." Thus an advertisement in a Hamburg newspaper. The price was considerable, but that didn't have a negative effect on the response. No fewer than 206 copies were ordered in advance, from all over Europe. Subscribers included famous masters like Johann Joachim Quantz, Johann Georg Pisendel and Michel Blavet. George Frideric Handel was also among them: he was a personal friend of Telemann, and Handel would not be Handel if he hadn't used some ideas from this collection for his own compositions.

The Concerto in E flat is from the third production and scored for two horns, two violins, strings and basso continuo. The horns are a clear reference to the aristocratic courts of Telemann's time, where the hunt, with which the horn was particularly associated, was one of the main preoccupations. The concerto includes several hunting motifs. It has been suggested that it is a curtsy to Dresden, as its chapel had some brilliant horn players in its ranks. The Concerto in A is part of the first production. It is notable for its three solo parts, for transverse flute, violin and cello respectively. Concertos for three solo parts were not very common at the time (Bach composed only two), but Telemann's work catalogue includes no fewer than seventeen of such works. The combination of instruments of different families is vintage Telemann. Notable in this concerto is the unusual length of the two fast movements.

With this disc, a project which deserves to be called ground-breaking comes to a worthy close. It is one of the best parts of this entertaining series, which can only add to our admiration of Telemann's creativity and versatility. La Stagione Frankfurt can be a little too restrained now and then, but here it shows its capabilities to the full. This is an excellent disc, and if one does not have the previous volumes, this will be an encouragement to add them to one's collection as well.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

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