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Georg Philipp TELEMANN: Concertos for mixed instruments

[I] "The Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments Vol. 2"
La Stagione Frankfurt
Dir: Michael Schneider
rec: May & Oct 2013, Jan 2014, Cologne, Deutschlandfunk (Kammermusiksaal)
CPO - 777 890-2 (© 2015) (59'36")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Concerto for recorder, viola da gamba, strings and bc in a minor (TWV 52,a1)ag; Concerto for 2 recorders, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola and bc in B flat (TWV 54,B2); Concerto for violin, trumpet, cello, strings and bc in D (TWV 53,D5)be; Concerto for 2 violins, bassoon, strings and bc in D (TWV 53,D4)efh; Concerto for 3 trumpets, timpani and orchestra in D (TWV 54,D4)bcdi

[soli] Michael Schneider, recordera; Hannes Ruxb, Almut Ruxc, Ute Rothkirchd, trumpet; Ingeborg Scheerere, Annette Wehnertf, violin; Rainer Zipperling, viola da gambag; Marita Schaar, bassoonh; Daniel Schäbe, timpanii

[II] "The Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments Vol. 3"
La Stagione Frankfurt
Dir: Michael Schneider
rec: May 2013 & Jan 2014, Cologne, Deutschlandfunk (Kammermusiksaal)
CPO - 777 891-2 (© 2016) (63'09")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto for transverse flute, violin, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 52,e3)ai; Concerto for 2 oboes, violin, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 53,e2)dfj; Concerto for 2 transverse flutes, violin, cello, strings and bc in D (TWV 54,D1)abik; Concerto for 3 horns, violin, strings and bc in D (TWV 54,D2)hj; Concerto for 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, strings and bc in D (TWV 54,D3)cegl

[soli] Karl Kaisera, Michael Schneiderb, transverse flute; Hannes Rux, Almut Rux, Ute Rothkirch, trumpetc; Luise Baumgartld, Annette Spehre, Martin Stadlerf, Hans-Peter Westermanng, oboe; Christian Binde, Ulrich Hübner, Jörg Schultess, hornh; Ingeborg Scheereri, Annette Wehnertj, violin; Juris Teichmanis, cellok; Daniel Schäbe, timpanil


After their project of the recording of Telemann's complete concertos for wind instruments, Michael Schneider and his ensemble La Stagione Frankfurt have turned to the concertos for mixed instruments, meaning a combination of strings and wind. This part of Telemann's oeuvre includes quite a number of pieces which are seldom performed and recorded. Among the better-known concertos are those for recorder and viola da gamba (TWV 52,a1) and for transverse flute and violin (TWV 52,e3). These concertos also testify to the composer's creativity and originality, in the combination of solo instruments, the different ways he treats them as well as in their variable structure. The latter can partly be explained by the fact, that some of these concertos were or may have been intended for special occasions or as overtures to theatrical works which have been lost.

One example is the Concerto in D (TWV 54,D3) (vol. 3), scored for three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings and bc. This work was intended as the opening of a serenata performed in May 1716 at the occasion of a festival to celebrate the birth of Archduke Leopold of Austria. The fact that it took place in open air explains the scoring with woodwind and brass. It is in five movements: it opens with an intrada dominated by the trumpets and timpani. For the trumpet parts Telemann could make use of the trumpeters of the court of Darmstadt. Next comes a short grave which leads to a fugal allegro which includes a passage for oboe solo. The latter instrument then dominates the fourth movement, a largo; this part was written for Peter Glösch, who had been a member of the Berlin court orchestra. The closing vivace has the form of a gigue.

The next piece in the programme of Vol. 3 also has five movements. The Concerto in e minor (TWV 52,e3) is scored for transverse flute, violin, strings and bc. The most notable movement is the third, which is entirely for violin. It is a virtuosic part with double stopping, a bit of a rarity in Telemann's oeuvre, as he generally did not like a display of virtuosity. However, we find something comparable in the Concerto in D (TWV 53,D5) (vol. 2). Although it is scored for violin, cello, trumpet, strings and bc, the latter two play a relatively minor role. In fact this piece is a solo concerto for the violin, and the solo part again includes double stopping. Also notable is that this concerto has three violin and two viola parts.

The latter concerto is in three movements. Although Telemann's oeuvre includes a number of concertos in three movements, modelled after the Vivaldian solo concerto, he generally preferred the older four-movement model, based on the Corellian trio sonata. His liking for unusual combinations of instruments comes to the fore in several concertos recorded here. Vol. 2 opens with the Concerto in D (TWV 53,D4), scored for two violins and bassoon. As in Corelli's trio sonatas the second movement is a fugue; this form is mostly not associated with Telemann. However, this fugue is one of the longest and most complex fugues from his pen. Another complex piece is the siciliana from the Concerto in D (TWV 54,D1) (vol. 3), scored for two transverse flutes, violin and cello. The four solo instruments all play a solo episode, first the cello, then the violin and lastly the two flutes one after the other. They are connected by ritornello episodes, which include chromaticism and modulations. This is one of the longest slow movements in Telemann's extant concertos. Although it has four movements, it is different in the sequence of movements. It opens with a vivace, then follow the (slow) siciliana and an allegro. The concerto closes with a dance movement, a gavotte (presto). The same is the case with the Concerto in e minor (TWV 53,e2) (vol. 3), which is for two oboes and violin. Here the sequence is allegro - andante - allegro, and the closing movement is a menuet. Notable is that the third movement is a repeat of the first. Because of its character and structure Wolfgang Hirschmann, in his liner-notes, suggests this concerto could also have been intended at first as the overture to an opera.

On both discs we find concertos with a prominent role of brass. The Concerto in D (TWV 54,D2) (vol. 3) was almost certainly intended for a court hunting party, probably of Ludwig VIII, landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, the employer of Telemann's colleague Christoph Graupner and great lover of hunting; he had a special liking for open air musical performances. It is remarkable for its scoring: three horns and violin. However, in fact it is a double concerto; the two additional horns only participate in the tutti sections. The slow movement of this concerto in three movements is a solo for the violin; the horn keeps silent here, as was customary in concertos for brass at that time. That is not the case in the Concerto in D (TWV 54,D4) (vol. 2), scored for three trumpets and timpani; here the trumpets also play in the slow movements. This concerto may have been written for a serenata-like performance, like the one of 1716 mentioned above.

The Concerto in B flat (TWV 54,B2) (vol. 2) is scored for two recorders, two oboes, two violins, viola and bc and has no extended solo parts. The various instruments are rather treated on equal footing and this piece is reminiscent of the consort music of the 17th century; the second movement is a fugue. In the opening paragraph I already mentioned the Concerto in a minor for recorder and viola da gamba (vol. 2). It is one of Telemann's best-known pieces, not the least thanks to the closing movement which reflects the composer's vivid interest in Polish folk music. This concerto is probably also the latest in these two programmes as it was written in Hamburg, whereas the other pieces date from Telemann's time in Frankfurt (1716-1721).

These two dics substantially increase our knowledge of Telemann as a composer of music for solo instruments. They confirm his liking for unusual combinations of instruments and his independence in the use of forms and structures that were common in his time. He may have disliked virtuosity, some of the instrumental parts are technically quite demanding. La Stagione Frankfurt delivers fine performances, and the soloists deserve much praise for their contributions. Ingeborg Scheerer and Annette Wehnert are excellent in their performances of the solo violin parts.

Two issues I would like to mention. Sometimes the performances are a bit too restrained. Now and then I would have liked a more theatrical approach to the repertoire. Secondly, it is regrettable that Michael Schneider doesn't follow the example of, for instance, Sigiswald Kuijken of working with brass players who perform with historical playing techniques, as explained in the review of two discs with horn and trumpet concertos by Telemann. It really makes a difference.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

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