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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Complete Violin Concertos Vol. 2"

Elizabeth Wallfisch, violin
L'Orfeo Barockorchester
Dir: Elizabeth Wallfisch

rec: Sept 20 - 22, 2004, Karlsruhe, SWR-Studios
CPO - 777 089-2 ( 2006) (64'21")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Concerto for violin, strings and bc in C (TWV 51,C3); Concerto for violin, 2 violins/violas and bc in G (TWV 51,G7); Concerto for violin, strings and bc in g minor (TWV 51,g1); Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A (TWV 51,A4); Concerto for violin, strings and bc in a minor (TWV 51,a2); Concerto for violin, strings and bc in b minor (TWV 51,h2); Concerto for violin, strings and bc in B flat (TWV 51,B1)

Carin van Heerden, Andreas Helm, oboe; Michi Gaigg, Julia Huber, Martin Jopp, Martin Kalista, Johanna Weber, Petr Zemanec, violin; Lucas Schurig, Julia Fiegl, viola; Katie Stephens, Anja Enderle, cello; Nikolaus Broda, bassoon; Maria Vahervuo, double bass; Johannes Bogner, harpsichord, organ

The solo concertos are a part of Telemann's large oeuvre which receives less attention than others. They very seldom appear on the programmes of concerts by baroque orchestras, and the number of recordings is limited. Elizabeth Wallfisch and L'Orfeo Barockorchester have planned a complete recording of the violin concertos. These were written between 1708 when Telemann began his duties as Kapellmeister at the court in Eisenach, and 1735, when Telemann's collection Musique de Table was published. After that date he never wrote any solo concerto again. Although he composed a fair amount of solo concertos they didn't get much attention in his time, in comparison with his overtures and his chamber music. Contemporaries, like Johann Mattheson, who wrote with admiration about Telemann's contributions to these genres, didn't mention them at all. And even Telemann himself seems not to have valued them very highly: "For variety, to revive the spirit, I also turned my hand to writing concertos. But I must confess that my heart was never completely in them, though I wrote a fair number".

The concertos on this disc show a large amount of variety. Some are in three movements, in particular those which were written as overtures to operas. The first item, the Concerto in C (TWV 51,C3) was used as overture to the opera Der neumodische Liebhaber Damon (TWV 21,8), which was first performed in 1724. It is a rather short work whose middle movement, largo, isn't much more than a transition between the first and the last movement, and written in the style of a recitative. It could have been played a little more like that, more freely and speechlike.

The second piece, the Concerto in g minor (TWV 51,g1) was transcribed for keyboard by Telemann's colleague and friend Johann Sebastian Bach. It was part of 16 concertos which Bach arranged on request of Prince Johann Ernst of Weimar. The middle movement is for violin with basso continuo only. Here again I could imagine a more speechlike interpretation. Two different versions of the last movement exists. Here the longest of the two is played. It contains an arpeggio cadenza, which according to Wolfgang Hirschmann in the programme notes is very likely not by Telemann. The question then is why it is played here, in particular as the playing of cadenzas wasn't established at the time this concerto was written and no other concerto on this disc contains any.

The Concerto in b minor (TWV 51,h2) is written in four movements. In his concertos Telemann generally seems to have preferred the model of the Italian sonata da chiesa than the Vivaldian concerto. The solo part and the ripieno are very much intertwined: the violin starts off at the very beginning of every movement, but the ripieno follows it closely: there are hardly any passages where one of the two keeps silent. The last movement shows the influence of Polish folk music which Telemann so much appreciated. It is played with great flair here by Elizabeth Wallfisch and the orchestra.

The Concerto in G (TWV 51,G7) is again in four movements. Here the violin very much dominates the proceedings, and the ripieno takes a back seat. The two fast movements give the soloist the opportunity to show his technical skills, and Elizabeth Wallfisch doesn't let that opportunity slip. But it never goes at the cost of sound music making. The dramatic aspects of the second movement are well explored by soloist and orchestra alike, in particular through strong dynamic accents. In the third movement the softly swaying rhythm of the siciliano is realised beautifully.

The Concerto in a minor (TWV 51,a2) was again written as overture to an opera, Die Last-tragende Liebe oder Emma und Eginhard (TWV 21,25), and it is again in three movements. But it is different from the Concerto in C in that the solo part is much more elaborated. This and the thematic material show strong influences from Vivaldi. The second movement, andante, is a wonderfully expressive piece played with great sensitivity. It suprisingly ends with a recitative-like passage. The concerto ends with a brilliant presto which one wouldn't expect from Telemann, but rather from an Italian composer, like indeed Vivaldi.

The Concerto in B flat (TWV 51,B1) was written for Germany's most famous violinist, Johann Georg Pisendel, leader of the court orchestra in Dresden. Telemann composed it in 1719 when he was in Dresden at the occasion of the wedding of the Saxon Prince Elector Friedrich August I. It is known that this concerto was performed with a large orchestra, and it is a little disappointing that this isn't reflected in this recording, with six violins, two violas, two cellos and double bass. One could perhaps argue that in most other concertos an ensemble of two instruments per part or even one, is most appropriate. That had made the difference with this concerto more obvious. This concerto, again in four movements, contains more polyphony than the others, probably reflecting the preferences of Pisendel, who was considered the figure-head of the German violin school.

The last item is the Concerto in A (TWV 51,A4) whose title page contains the nickname die Relinge, meaning the 'singing' of pond frogs. The authenticity of this concerto is not established, and the attribution to Telemann is doubtful. On the other hand, Telemann loved imitations of all kinds of things in his overtures, so it could well be written by him. The two first movements contain effects to imitate the frogs, but the concerto ends with a beautiful menuet.

From what has been said above one may conclude that Elizabeth Wallfisch and L'Orfeo Barockorchestra have done a great job here. One has to be thankful for the initiative to record all Telemann's violin concertos, which are necessary to complete the picture of this great composer who is still not rated at his true value. These concertos show a side of Telemann's output which has been underestimated: his virtuosity as a performer, as most of these concertos were perhaps written for his own use. The sometimes very contrasting and dramatic character of these concertos is not something one immediately associates with Telemann, so it is praiseworthy that soloist and orchestra bring that to our attention with performances which put Telemann's concertos in the best possible light.

Johan van Veen ( 2007)

Relevant links:

Elizabeth Wallfisch
L'Orfeo Barockorchester

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