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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Oeuvres pour clavier" (Keyboard Works)

Olivier Baumont, harpsichorda, clavichordb

rec: May 9 - 11, 2012, Normandie, [Collections Yannick Gaillou & Gérard Dubuisson]a; May 14, 2012, Paris, Musée de la musiqueb
Euromusic - LY052 (© 2012) (58'16")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover & track-list
Scores Telemann, Fantasias

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Concerto in g minor (after Telemann, TWV 51,g1) (BWV 985)a; George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759): Jesu, meine Freude, chorale arrangement (HWV 480)b; Georg Philipp TELEMANN: Overture in G (TWV 32,13)a; Fantasia I in c minor (TWV 33,13)a [1]; Fantasia II in C (TWV 33,14)a [1]; Fantasia I in D (TWV 33,1)a [1]; Fantasia II in d minor (TWV 33,2)a [1]; Fantasia IX in b minor (TWV 33,33)a [1]; Fantasia X in D (TWV 33,34)a [1]; Jesu, meine Freude, bicinium (TWV 31,34)b [2]; Jesu, meine Freude, chorale prelude (TWV 31,33)b [2]

Source: [1] Fantaisies pour le clavessin, 1732-33; [2] Telemanns fugirende und veraendernde Choraele, 1735

Georg Philipp Telemann was able to play virtually every instrument in vogue in his time. That includes keyboard instruments such as harpsichord, clavichord and organ. This despite the fact that he had enjoyed a formal education in keyboard playing for only 15 days. 'Enjoyed' is not the right word in this case: he himself stated that his teacher "terrorised" him with the German tablature "which he played extremely stiffly". Therefore, "after a martyrdom of fifteen days" he splitted with him. Baumont states that there may be some exaggeration in Telemann's claim that he never received any education at the keyboard. "[He] was not adverse to the idea of leaving to the posterity the image of an artist with innate gifts". That said, if someone is able to play almost any instrument one has to conclude that he has extraordinary natural skills.

The catalogue of Telemann's works includes a large number of keyboard pieces. So far these have almost completely neglected. The collections of fantasias, from which a handful has been recorded by Baumont, belong to the better-known part and have been recorded complete. They are the exception. His oeuvre also includes a number of chorale arrangements which can be played at the organ but also at plucked keyboard instruments. These have also received hardly any attention, even from organists.

As Telemann's keyboard oeuvre is little-known one can only welcome this disc, even though a large part consists of his relatively better-known fantasias. Baumont has put the programme together in such a way that the two main influences in Telemann's music, the Italian and the French style, both come to the fore. The collection of fantasias comprises 36 pieces, divided over 24 pieces in Italian style and 12 which are reflecting the French taste. They are all dominated by a da capo structure. The Italian fantasias consist of three movements: fast - slow - fast. The latter is the repeat of the first; obviously the interpreter is expected to add ornamentation. The French fantasias are in four movements: slow - fast - slow - fast; the third is a repeat of the first. Moreover, Telemann has grouped the fantasias in couples: at the end of the even-numbered fantasias Telemann adds the indication that the previous fantasia - the odd one - should be repeated. Despite the short playing time Baumont has decided to repeat only one movement of the preceding fantasia: the first in the Italian fantasias, the last in the French. Because of this procedure these fantasias have more substance than the short individual pieces would suggest.

The disc opens with a piece in purely French style, the Overture in G (TWV 32,13), with begins with an 'ouverture' in three sections: grave - allegro - grave. It is followed by allemande, courante, bourrée I & II, aria and a menuet with trio. The courante includes some passages with daring harmony. These take profit from the temperament of the harpsichord about which the booklet unfortunately doesn't give any information. By way of contrast the next piece, Bach's Concerto in g minor, demonstrates the Italian style in Telemann's oeuvre. It is a little surprising and disappointing that Baumont has chosen an instrumental concerto - for violin, strings and bc - as arranged for harpsichord by Bach. I can't imagine that Telemann's keyboard oeuvre doesn't contain any original piece in the Italian style, apart from the fantasias. On the other hand, this piece sheds light on the connection between the two composers; Telemann was the godfather of Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel and Bach regularly performed cantatas by Telemann in Leipzig.

The disc ends with two chorale arrangements on Jesu, meine Freude, the second of which has the form of a bicinium. Like I wrote these pieces can be played at the organ, but also on other keyboard instruments; here Baumont has opted for the clavichord. That requires the adjustment of the ears to the soft sound of this instrument. In this section of the programme another connection is displayed: the sequence of pieces begins with an arrangement by Handel. The two composers were good friends and exchanged plants.

Olivier Baumont uses five different historical instruments. Two are French: a harpsichord by Jacques Goermans of 1774 and an instrument by an anonymous builder with only the letters DF in the rosette; it probably dates from the end of the 17th century. Two Italian harpsichords are played: one is an anonymous instrument, probably from Piedmont, and dates from around 1720. The second is again anonymous, probably from Florence and dating from around 1620. The latter is the most remarkable choice, also because it is strung with gut. "The fact that this instrument is equipped with gut strings permits the instrument to reproduce the sound of the Lautenklavier (or Lautenwerk), that were so popular in Germany at the time of Telemann (...)", we read in the booklet. Despite the stylistic differences within the repertoire the choice of a German harpsichord would have been preferable. I am wondering how many different keyboards were around in Telemann's time in Germany, and whether purely French or Italian instruments were played. The style of the music comes off equally well on a German-type instrument. Lastly, Baumont plays a fretted clavichord by an anonymous German or Austrian builder; apparently the date is not known.

Baumont delivers fine performances and demonstrates convincingly that Telemann's keyboard works are unjustly overlooked. That becomes especially clear if the composer's instructions in regard to repeats are followed. In this respect Baumont could have been more consistent.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Olivier Baumont

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