musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "3 Orchestral Suites"

Carin van Heerden, recorder
L'Orfeo Barockorchester
Dir: Carin van Heerden

rec: March 27 - 30, 2006, Boswil, Alte Kirche
CPO - 777 218-2 (© 2008) (68'50")

Overture for flute pastorelle, strings and bc in E flat (TWV 55,Es2); Overture for 2 oboes, strings and bc in F (TWV 55,F14); Overture for recorder, strings and bc in a minor (TWV 55,a2)

The three orchestral overtures on this disc are just a small proportion of what Telemann contributed to this genre. Several times in his career he was at places where he could become acquainted with the French style. He became a staunch admirer, and that resulted in a large number of orchestral overtures - basically modelled after Jean-Baptiste Lully. He preferred these to solo concertos, which was an Italian form.

Most of Telemann's overtures have been preserved in the archive of the court of Darmstadt. Prince Ernst Ludwig, Landgrave of Hesse, was very impressed by the French style as well, and he engaged several French musicians for his chapel. Telemann's friend Christoph Graupner was appointed Kapellmeister in Darmstadt in 1712, and he composed a number of overtures. Together Graupner and Johann Samuel Endler – his vice-Kapellmeister since 1723 - also collected and copied a large number of similar works, among them many by Telemann.

Some of Telemann's overtures contain a solo part for one or several instruments. Two overtures on this disc have solo parts for the recorder, which were very likely written for Johann Michael Böhm. From 1711 to 1729 he was at the service of Prince Ernst Ludwig, and when he married Susanna Elisabeth Textor in Frankfurt in 1720 he became Telemann's brother-in-law. Böhm was a famous player of the transverse flute and also played the recorder and the oboe. It is an indication of the high reputation of Telemann that Böhm and Endler were involved in a kind of competition about the number of works by Telemann they owned.

The first Overture on this disc is not very well-known. The scoring of the solo part is problematic. The score indicates a flute pastorelle, but it isn't quite clear what this means. "In view of the fact that the solo part operates with striking frequency in the lower register, the (little) fourth flute (Quartflöte, flûte de quatre) would be the most logical choice among the selection of (conically bored) recorders in use during Telemann's lifetime", Christian Moritz-Bauer writes in his programme notes. That is the instrument Carin van Heerden plays here. The opening overture is in the usual ABA form. In the A section the flute plays colla parte with the first violin, whereas in the B section it has its own part. The same happens in menuet I and II; in menuet I the interventions of the flute are short, sometimes just a couple of notes, and again it mostly plays with the first violin. In the bourrée I the flute is imitated in the strings, in particular in the closing episode. In the last movement, a gigue, the recorder imitates birdsong.

The other Overture for recorder and strings is one of Telemann's best-known compositions. The recorder part, played here on the treble recorder, is technically demanding. This work is one of the most challenging compositions for every recorder player. It is considered a rather late work, written when Telemann was already working in Hamburg. It moves away from the original French concept of the orchestral overture, especially as the third movement is an air à l'italien, a movement which could well figure in an Italian solo concerto. Christian Moritz-Bauer compares it with a dacapo aria. The second movement is more French: a character piece, called Les Plaisirs. The work ends with a polonoise, another form of which Telemann was very fond.

It appears also in the second Overture on this disc, scored for two oboes, strings and bc. This is considered a much earlier work and closer to the Lullian overture, as the oboes don't have independent parts but play colla parte with the two violins throughout. The rigaudon is characterised by strong accents, the fifth movement is a rondeau, a favourite form in France in the early 18th century. The seventh movement is a character piece, called La Chasse (the hunt), and the Overture ends with an elegant menuet.

This disc is mainly interesting because of the Overtures in E flat and in F which I can't remember having ever heard before. They're nice works which are well worth listening to. The Overture in a minor is available in a number of recordings, and this version is not going to be my favourite. Carin van Heerden plays well, but I find the air à l'italien a little disapppointing, especially in regard to ornamentation. The performance is also dynamically a little flat. It is probably because the dynamic range of the recorder is relatively limited that the ensemble holds back in this regard as well. The same happens in the Overture in E flat. There are stronger dynamic contrasts in the Overture in F. Generally I would have liked more engaging and really compelling performances.

The timings of the first and third overture on the rear insert are confused, and so is the information in the booklet regarding the recorders used in these overtures.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

L'Orfeo Barockorchester

CD Reviews