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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "The Chameleon"

Bergen Barokk

rec: Nov 2015 & Oct 2016, Vaksdal, Vaksdal kirke
Lawo Classics - LWC 1158 (© 2018) (76'38")
Liner-notes: E/No
Cover, track-list & booklet

Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758): Sonata in C (FWV N,C3); Georg Philipp TELEMANN: Carillion in D (TWV 40,109)a [2]; Fantasia VII in E flat (TWV 40,20) (transposed to B flat) (dolce; allegro) [4]; Fuga VI in F (TWV 30,26) [5]; Gigue in F [2]; La Poste in B flat (TWV 35,2); Overture in g minor (TWV 41,g4) (ouverture); Partita in g minor (TWV 41,g2) [1]; Partita in B flat (TWV 41,B1) (aria 5) [1]; Sonatina V in a minor (TWV 41,a4); Sonata in C (TWV 42,C2); Sonata in g minor (TWV 42,g9) (largo); Sonata in B flat (TWV 41,B3); Georg Philipp TELEMANN / Jean Daniel BRAUN (fl c1728-1740): Suite in g minor (after Telemann, Fantasia VIII in e minor, TWV 40,9 [3]) [Telemann: largo; Braun: corrente; lamenterole; Telemann: allegro; spirituoso]

Sources: [1] Kleine Cammer-Music, 1716; [2] Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728; [3] 12 Fantaisies, 1732/33; [4] Fantaisie, 1735; [5] Fugues légères et petits jeux, 1738/39

Frode Thorsen, recorder; Adrian Rovatkay, bassoon; Hans Knut Sveen, harpsichord; Davide Bertolini, druma

Georg Philipp Telemann was not only the most productive composer of his time, he was also the most versatile, as the title of this disc indicates. He contributed to every possible genre of his time, and his oeuvre also shows much stylistic variety. He became acquainted with the Italian and French styles, and mixed them with traditional German counterpoint. Early in his career he came into contact with traditional music from Poland and Bohemia, and this had a lasting influence on his development as a composer. Whereas in his early years he composed pieces dominated by counterpoint, he later embraced the galant idiom, and his latest works bear the traces of the early classical style. In addition, he wrote music for virtually every instrument in vogue in his time, often in rather unconventional combinations.

As far as the latter aspect is concerned, this disc confines itself to three instruments: the recorder, the bassoon and the harpsichord. However, Frode Thorsen also plays the bass recorder, which is a rather unusual instrument, mostly used in consort music of the 16th and early 17th centuries, and seldom in a solo role. Telemann did give it some solo parts, and his successor as Musikdirektor in Hamburg, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, composed a sonata with a bass recorder part. From that angle the use of this instrument in the Carillion, which opens the programme, is not without justification. However, it seems that this recording was only made possible due to modern technique, as Thorsen plays here both recorders. I don't like this: a recording should be as close to a live performance as possible.

This piece was originally scored for two recorders, and it is one of several pieces which are performed here in a kind of arrangement or adaptation. Overall, the performers have taken considerable freedom in their treatment of the material. As long as such arrangements are stylistically convincing, there is no basic objection to such a procedure, taking into account that composers often offered alternatives with regard to the line-up. A good example is the Sonatina quinta in a minor, which is for recorder, bassoon or violone with basso continuo.

Telemann composed several sets of fantasias for a single instrument: the keyboard, the viola da gamba, the violin and the transverse flute. Especially the latter are often played on the recorder. Here we hear two movements from the Fantasia VII for violin solo, played on the bassoon. In the collection Essercizii Musici Telemann included several sonatas for a melody instrument and harpsichord with basso continuo. This seems to have been taken as a model for the performance of Sonata in C, originally scored for recorder, treble viol and basso continuo. Here the harpsichord plays both the bass and the viol part.

Adaptations of a different kind are those pieces which have been put together from different sources. The Partita No. 4 in g minor is from a set of six, scored for a solo instrument and basso continuo. In this recording it is preceded by an overture (originally scored for oboe) from another collection, Der getreue Music-Meister, which Telemann published in the form of a journal. In the case of the Suite in g minor Frode Thorsen goes a step further in bringing together pieces by two different composers. The starting point is the Fantasia VIII for transverse flute; its three movements are here the first and the two last of the suite. The second and third movements are from the pen of the Jean Daniel Braun, a French flautist and composer from the first half of the 18th century. Little is known about him; Thorsen does not mention the source from which he has taken the two pieces. They are probably included in a collection of several pieces for transverse flute solo, among them some from Braun's pen, which was published in Paris. One could see their inclusion here as a tribute to the French influence in Telemann's oeuvre.

Talking about influences: one piece in the programme documents Telemann's influence on others, in this case Johann Friedrich Fasch. His Sonata in C is scored for bassoon and basso continuo; it is the only bassoon sonata in his oeuvre and in fact one of the relatively few sonatas for this instrument from the baroque era. Especially the last movement is technically quite demanding.

This piece is one of the assets of this disc, considering the relative lack of solo repertoire for the bassoon from the first half of the 18th century. Telemann's flute fantasia also works quite well on the bassoon, and bassoonists should look at this set of fantasias which may be well suited for their instrument. Adrian Rovatkay is one of the best players of the baroque bassoon of our time, and he delivers impressive performances. Frode Thorsen also leaves nothing to be desired in his performances of the recorder parts. The arrangements and adaptations are overall quite convincing, even though I prefer the original scorings. In Telemann's Sonata in C the harpsichord could have had a little more presence. Hans Knut Sveen does well in his interpretation of the harpsichord parts, especially in the Fuga VI.

This disc will appeal to anyone who likes Telemann's music, but not only to them. This is a most enjoyable recital of baroque instrumental music.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

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Bergen Barokk

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