musica Dei donum
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "The Autograph Scores"
Collegium Musicum 90
Dir: Simon Standage
rec: Nov 16 - 18, 2011, London, All Saints' Church, East Finchley
Chandos - CHAN 0787 (© 2012) (79'18")
Concerto for strings and bc in D (TWV 43,D4);
Divertimento for two transverse flutes, two horns, strings and bc in E flat (TWV 50,21);
Overture for two horns, bassoon, strings and bc in F (TWV 55,F16);
Overture for two transverse flutes, bassoon, strings and bc in D (TWV 55,D23) & Fanfare for two transverse flutes, horn, bassoon, strings and bc in D (TWV 50,44);
Overture for violin, strings and bc in A (TWV 55,A7)
During his long life Georg Philipp Telemann composed a large amount of music. Until his death he remained active in this field as this disc shows which includes some of his last compositions. These date from 1766 and were written at the occasion of the nameday of Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Darmstadt. Although he complained about his failing eyesight Telemann was highly motivated to compose some works for the Landgrave. They have been preserved in a manuscript which belonged to his grandson Georg Michael. These nine pieces are exactly half of the 18 works which have been preserved in Telemann's own handwriting.
Three of the compositions which were written for the Landgrave appear in the programme of this disc. In two of them a pair of horns play a prominent role. The horn was usually associated with the hunt, which was one of the main occupations of princes and aristocrats. Moreover the Landgrave was known for being a fanatical huntsman. The Overture in F is scored for two horns, bassoon, strings and bc and is headed by a dedication to Ludwig VIII. It has been suggested that this piece may have been performed in the Landgrave's hunting palace near Darmstadt. This Overture includes various passages with hunting motives. Some movements are for strings only, and there are passages for a trio of two horns and bassoon. The piece closes with La Tempête, the musical depiction of a thunderstorm.
Quite different in character is the Overture in D which is scored for two transverse flutes, bassoon, strings and bc. The most striking feature is the inclusion of a Plainte, a kind of piece which also frequently turns up in French music of the 17th century, both in operas and in instrumental music. It lends this overture a rather old-fashioned character. It is interrupted by a lively gaillarde. Also in this overture are a sarabande - another slow dance - and a passacaille, a further reference to French music. It then comes as a surprise that the Overture ends with a Fanfare which has been allocated a different number in the catalogue of Telemann's oeuvre, but according to most scholars was intended as the last movement of the Overture. All of a sudden a horn joins the orchestra which has to be interpreted as another reference to the Landgrave's love of hunting. It brings this rather introverted orchestral suite to an exuberant close.
The disc ends with the Divertimento in E flat, one of three compositions in Telemann's oeuvre which bear this name. The other two are for strings and bc, this one includes parts for two flutes and two horns. There is no absolute certainty that it was written for the Landgrave, but it seems very likely. It depicts a day in the life of a prince or aristocrat. After an introductory allegro we hear La Réveille, then the 'conversation at the table', followed by the reveille for the hunting party. When this is over we get the meal and the piece closes with the retreat, which is depicted by a dance. According to the booklet this piece is recorded here for the first time.
The two remaining works are from an earlier date; they are very different in scoring and character. I don't understand why more pieces from the same manuscript were not performed instead. The Concerto in D is in fact a quartet for strings and bc. In his liner-notes Nicholas Anderson states that this is an early version of one of the quartets for transverse flute, violin, viola and bc in the Quatrième Livre de quatuors which were published in Paris somewhere between 1752 and 1760. This string version may date from before 1716. As in many early works counterpoint plays an important role; the second movement is a fugal vivace.
The Overture in A is one of a number of orchestral suites which includes a solo part, in this case for the violin. Telemann scholar Steven Zohn calls this kind of overture a concert en ouverture. It also shows French influence and it has been suggested that Telemann could have written it after a stay in Paris in 1737/38. For a long time it was considered a fragment in three movements as a part of the original material was destroyed during World War II. In later years it has been reconstructed to the form in which it is played here. It begins with the traditional ouverture which is followed by six movements with the title Invention. These are mostly dances, such as rigaudon, passepied or gavotte en rondeau. The most remarkable Invention is the third, which - despite its indication as an alternation of grave and vite - is rather Italian in style, and has the character of an operatic scene. Invention V includes passages for the violin in which the bariolage technique is used.
Simon Standage has made many recordings with music by Telemann. It is for that reason that in 2010 he received the Georg-Philipp-Telemann-Preis from the city of Magdeburg, where Telemann was born. That is surely well-deserved. I have to admit, though, that I am always rather skeptical when British ensembles play German baroque music, and Standage's interpretations are no exception. The performances on this disc are pretty good, but if you compare them with recordings of German ensembles the latter come out on top. These have more nuances in the interpretation, for instance in regard to articulation and the treatment of dynamics. The tempo contrasts in these performances are rather moderate. The tempo of the forlane in the Overture in F can hardly be considered très vite as Telemann required. It is especially the playing of the strings which I don't find really satisfying. On the other hand, the execution of the parts for the flutes and the horns is outstanding. The bassoon is a bit underexposed, probably due to the recording rather than the bassoonist's playing.
As the works on this disc belong to the lesser-known parts of Telemann's oeuvre and his music never fails to entertain, lovers of his music surely should consider this disc.
Johan van Veen (© 2013)