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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Complete Violin Concertos Vol. 7"

Elizabeth Wallfisch, violin
The Wallfisch Band
Dir: Elizabeth Wallfisch

rec: Sept 30 - Oct 3, 2013, LaBaleine, Église Saint-Pierre
CPO - 777 881-2 (© 2021) (57'04")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto in G (TWV 51,G4); Overture in A (TWV 55,A4); Overture in A (TWV 55,A8)

Kinga Ujszaszi, Meritxell Tiana Alsina, Pooya Radbon, Susan Carpenter-Jacobs, Asako Takeuchi, André David Meireles de Castro, violin; Raquel Massadas, Yusuke Kinoshita, viola; Diana Vinagre, Anton Baba, cello; Marta Vicente, double bass; Albert-Jan Roelofs, harpsichord

It is not unusual these days that a disc is released three or four years after the recording was made. The reason is that only a few ensembles are under contract of a record company. Most ensembles seem to make their own recordings and then offer them to various record companies, in the hope that one may be willing to release it. That cannot be the case here, as this disc is the latest of a project concerning the recording of Telemann's complete oeuvre for violin and orchestra. It is a bit of a mystery why this disc is released eight years after the recording took place. Could the reason be that it includes two pieces which are of doubtful authenticity? One may have doubted whether to include them into this series.

There is no doubt about the authenticity of the only concerto in the programme. However, the Concerto in G has some unusual traits as well. It strongly smells of Vivaldi. First, it is in three movements, whereas Telemann mostly preferred the 'older' form in four. Second, the central movement opens and closes with a tutti episode, embracing a long passage for violin and basso continuo - a structure quite common in Vivaldi's concertos. The opening movement is also notable for its dacapo structure, comparable with an opera aria. It is a rather long movement. This work has been preserved in a copy by Telemann's colleague Christoph Graupner, dating from 1724 or a little earlier. That is probably close to the time it was written.

In contrast, the two overtures have raised questions with regard to their authenticity. Their basic structure is not unusual: the oeuvre of Telemann includes several overtures or orchestral suites with a solo part for a particular instrument. Among the best-known of them are an overture with solo recorder and one with a solo part for viola da gamba. Earlier volumes in this series also included such overtures. However, it is the way this form has been worked out and some stylistic features which have been the reason that one of the leading Telemann scholars, Steven Zohn, doubts whether the two overtures performed here are indeed from Telemann's pen.

About the Overture in A (TWV 55,A8), he writes that "its unusually brief movements are melodically improverished and marked by simplistic solo writing". Wolfgang Hirschmann, editor-in-chief of Bärenreiter's Collected Edition of Telemann's works and the author of the liner-notes, tends to a different view. He argues that several features speak in favour of Telemann's authorship. Some movements are indeed rather short, but the overture is more than compensating for that. It includes extended solo episodes for the violin. The solo parts demonstrate various playing techniques, and include polyphonic passages. The second movement is a pair of passepieds and bears the traces of the influence of folk music, which we find in so many of Telemann's instrumental works. Hirschmann believes there are reasons enough to include this work in this series, and that seems the right decision. It is a delightful work and it would be a shame to ignore it.

There are more doubts about the Overture in A (TWV 55,A4). As it has been preserved without the name of the composer, it is strictly speaking an anonymous work. Again it has come down to us in a copy made at the court in Darmstadt, probably by Johann Gottfried Vogler, who was active as violinist in the Darmstadt chapel and had previously been the leader of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum, founded by Telemann. In this case the Italian titles of the various movements make the attribution to Telemann questionable. The opening movement has no title, the second is unusually called divertimento, which otherwise does not appear in any of Telemann's overtures. The ensuing movement is a character piece with the title Le Lusinghe, and the remaining movements are called minuetta, passa tempo and tempo di giga. Hirschmann tends to agree with Zohn that this piece is very likely not written by Telemann, but does not want to speculate about its real composer. One wonders whether Vogler himself wrote it. He is not included in New Grove; maybe no compositions from his pen are known. In that case a stylistic comparison is impossible. Hirschmann argues that the piece has enough qualities to be performed and recorded, and again he is right. There is quite some variety and the violin part has also nice things to offer.

Like in the previous volumes, Elizabeth Wallfisch delivers technically immaculate and musically convincing performances. Telemann was not a violin virtuoso, and may have written some of his works with solo violin for other performers, but he certainly knew how to explore the features of the instrument. It is a shame that so few of his violin concertos and overtures with solo violin are part of the standard repertoire. It is to be hoped that this project will make them better-known. Wallfisch shows the way how to perform them.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

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