musica Dei donum

CD reviews

German music for recorder

[I] Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Recorder Sonatas & Fantasias"
Pamela Thorby, recorder
Alison McGillivray, celloa; Peter Whelan, bassoona; Elizabeth Kenny, archlute, guitara; Marcin Swiatkiewicz, harpsichord, organa
rec: April 29 - 30a & July 24 - 25, 2014, York, National Centre for Early Music
Linn Records - CKD 476 (2 CDs) (© 2015) (1.51'26")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & liner-notes

CD 1a: Sonata for recorder and bc in C (TWV 41,C2) [1]; Sonata for recorder and bc in F (TWV 41,F2) [1]; Sonata for recorder[/bassoon] and bc in f minor (TWV 41,f1) [1]; Sonata for recorder and bc in C (TWV 41,C5) [3]; Sonata for recorder and bc in d minor (TWV 41,d4) [3]; Sonata for recorder and bc [recorder, bassoon, organ] in B flat (TWV 41,B3) [1]; Sonata for recorder, harpsichord and bc in B flat (TWV 42,B4) [3]
CD 2: [Douze solos pour la flûte transversiere sans basse [2]] Fantasia I in A (transposed to C) (TWV 40,2); Fantasia II in a minor (transposed to c minor) (TWV 40,3); Fantasia III in b minor (transposed to d minor) (TWV 40,4); Fantasia IV in B flat (transposed to B flat) (TWV 40,5); Fantasia V in C (transposed to E flat) (TWV 40,6); Fantasia VI in d minor (transposed to f minor) (TWV 40,7); Fantasia VII in D (transposed to G) (TWV 40,8); Fantasia VIII in e minor (transposed to b flat minor) (TWV 40,9); Fantasia IX in E (transposed to B flat) (TWV 40,10); Fantasia X in f sharp minor (transposed to b minor) (TWV 40,11); Fantasia XI in G (TWV 40,12); Fantasia XII in g minor (transposed to a minor) (TWV 40,13)

Sources: [1] Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728/29; [2] Douze solos pour la flûte transversiere sans basse, 1732/33; [3] Essercizii Musici, 1740

[II] Andreas Heinrich SCHULTZE (1681-1742) (attr): "Recorder Sonatas"
Ensemble La Ninfea
rec: Jan 27 - 29, 2014, Bremen, Radio Bremen (Sendesaal)
Raumklang - RK 3402 (© 2015) (70'33")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet
Scores Schultze

anon: Sonata I in G; Sonata II in e minor; Sonata IV in a minor; Andreas Heinrich SCHULTZE: Sonata I in d minor [1]; Sonata II in g minor [1]; Sonata III in d minor [1]; Sonata IV in G [1]; Sonata V in B flat [1]; Sonata VI in d minor [1]

Source: [1] VI Sonate a Flauto Solo con Cimbalo o vero Fagotto del Signore A. H. Schultzen, 1703

Barbara Heindlmeier, recorder; Christian Heim, Marthe Perl, viola da gamba; Simon Linné, lute, theorbo; Andreas Küppers, harpsichord, organ

The recorder is basically an instrument of the 16th and 17th centuries when it was frequently used in vocal and instrumental music. In the early decades of the 18th century its demise started and gradually it was overshadowed by the transverse flute. It is remarkable that Georg Philipp Telemann who is generally considered the most 'modern' German composer of his time, gave the recorder so much attention, whereas in the oeuvre of Johann Sebastian Bach, his more 'conservative' contemporary, the recorder plays a rather modest role. He often included it in his vocal works but wrote no sonatas or concertos for recorder. Only in two of his Brandenburg Concertos it takes a prominent role.

The explanation for the important place of the recorder in Telemann's oeuvre is that he composed many of his instrumental works for the amateurs of his time. Among them the recorder held its ground. They were served by several collections which Telemann published during his career. From two of these Pamela Thorby has taken the sonatas she plays on the first disc of the set released by Linn Records. In 1728/29 Telemann published a music journal under the title of Der getreue Music-Meister: every issue included short pieces of a diverse nature, for various instrumental and vocal scorings. Sonatas were always divided over various issues in order to increase sales. This journal was typically intended for the growing number of amateurs: people from the higher echelons of society who liked to play good but technically not too complicated music in domestic surroundings, with family and friends. Some of the pieces from this collection have become very popular, such as the Sonata in f minor which can be played either on the recorder or the bassoon. The indication of alternative scorings is one of the features of music for amateurs: they did not always have the right instrument at hand and could choose another instrument instead. A telling specimen is the Sonata in B flat (TWV 41,B3) which is a sonata in form of a canon which can be played as a piece for a solo instrument and basso continuo but also as a duet or two instruments withouth continuo. The choice of instruments is largely to the choice of the performers.

In 1740 Telemann published his Essercizii Musici which includes twelve sonatas for a solo instrument and basso continuo and twelve trios. Two features are notable: several sonatas include an obbligato harpsichord part which makes this collection the first to include music for harpsichord in this role. Secondly, these sonatas were apparently written in the 1720s; that makes the inclusion of sonatas for recorder not that remarkable, considering that at that time is was still quite a common instrument. But when Telemann published it in 1740 he didn't see the need to change the scoring. This attests to the continuing popularity of the recorder. Collections like this and also Der getreue Music-Meister were more than just material for 'domestic entertainment' - they also had a didactic purpose, as the title of the Essercizii Musici shows.

These sonatas also attest to Telemann's preference for the goûts réunis, the mixture of the Italian and French styles. That also comes to the fore in his Fantasias for a solo instrument. He composed three collections, respectively for transverse flute, violin and viola da gamba. The latter has been lost, the former belongs to the most frequently performed chamber music by Telemann. The Douze solos pour la flûte transversiere sans basse which were published in 1732/33 are frequently performed on the recorder. Considering the fact that composers often suggested other scorings themselves there is no fundamental objection to this practice. The same goes for the consequence: that many fantasias have to be transposed to a different key. Interpreters approach this issue in different ways. Some use instruments which make sure that as many fantasias as possible can be played in the original key. Pamela Thorby took a different path. "As an alternative to playing the set on a single instrument, I have tried to adopt an overarching progression of keys and recorders whose character, I felt, complemented each fantasia by turn (...)". She uses two voice flutes and four alto recorders of various pitches. It is regrettable that the booklet omits indications as to which recorder is played in which fantasia.

I have greatly enjoyed Pamela Thorby's performances. Her interpretations are truly rhetorical and speech-like, something I don't take for granted when listening to performances by British players. She articulates very well and makes a clear distinction between good and bad notes by way of dynamic accents. The theatrical aspects - probably a feature of Telemann's chamber music which is not often noticed - are convincingly conveyed. She receives excellent support from her colleagues. The duet of recorder and bassoon (Sonata in B flat, TWV 41,B3) is very nice, with a good contribution by Peter Whelan. Thorby's recording of the fantasias is one of the best available on recorder.

Whereas Telemann is one of the most fashionable baroque composers today Schultze is a completely unknown quantity. His name - as 'A.H. Schultzen' - appears as the composer on a manuscript which includes six sonatas for recorder and basso continuo. It is preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. The collection is also included in the 1737 catalogue of the Amsterdam music printer Roger. It was mentioned in 1704 in a book by a French author which gives some indication of the time these sonatas were written. The sonatas were known but the identity of the composer remained a mystery. In the liner-notes to the Raumklang disc Barbara Heindlmeier writes that "[our] own research has brought us to the conclusion that the mysterious A.H. Schultzen is probably Andreas Heinrich Schultze. A certain 'A. Schultsen' is mentioned in Zedlers Universallexikon (1732-1754) and Walthers Musikalisches Lexikon (1732) as an author of two collections of sonatas: the six sonatas for recorder that appear on this recording, and six more for oboe, which have presumably been lost". In his dictionary Johann Gottfried Walther includes some information about Schultze: he was born in Braunschweig in 1681 and was organist in Hildesheim from 1706 onwards. In this town he had visited the Gymnasium Andreanum which Telemann also attended from 1697 to 1701. That creates an interesting link to the music we just discussed.

However, there is a clear difference between Telemann's compositions for the recorder and these sonatas by Schultze. The latter are technically demanding and likely well beyond the capabilities of the amateurs of those days. In an article in the American Recorder Magazine in 2001 Patricio Portell assumed that this set was the earliest collection of sonatas published with the professional recorder player in mind. That said, it is obviously hard to establish exactly how skilled the amateurs of the early 18th century were. We certainly shouldn't underestimate their technical capabilities.

The sonatas are a mixture of German and Italian elements, as Ms Heindlmeier observes. She points out the equality between the recorder and the bass part, "making them equal partners, as in a duet". "The noticeable individuality of the different sections in terms of their compositional style and variety of affects lends each sonata a distinctive air". The Sonata I in d minor opens with an adagio of an improvisatory character which closes with a passage with strong chromaticism. The Sonata II in g minor includes a largo in the form of a chaconne; the closing allegro has the rhythm of a gigue. The second movement of the Sonata III in d minor is a presto of a theatrical character which is followed by a grave with chromaticism. The Sonata V in B flat opens with an improvisatory passage for the bass, followed by a similar episode for the recorder. The same happens in the expressive third movement (largo). The Sonata VI in d minor is the most virtuosic of the set. That is especially true for the second movement (un poco presto) which follows the first attacca, lending the piece a strong theatrical character. The following adagio is quite expressive and the sonata closes with an allegro which is dominated by imitation between recorder and bass.

Historically there are quite some similarities between the recorder and the viola da gamba. They both were used as consort instruments in the renaissance and then gained a status as solo instruments in the 17th century. In the early decades of the 18th century it was not only the recorder which gradually fell out of grace, the same happened to the viola da gamba. Whereas the recorder was replaced by the transverse flute, the viol had to give way to the cello. The anonymous sonatas which are included in this recording are part of the family music library which Princess Louisa Frederica, daughter of Friedrich Ludwig, the crown prince of Württemberg, brought with her when she moved to Mecklenburg-Schwerin to marry its future Duke, Frederick II, in 1746. They probably date from the early 18th century. They show the influence of the Italian style and are modelled after the Corellian sonata da chiesa. They are technically demanding, for instance in the frequent use of double stopping.

This is a disc of major importance. Firstly, all the sonatas on this disc are recorded for the first time. Considering that the solo repertoire for recorder is not that large these six sonatas by Schultze have to be considered an important addition to the repertoire. As they are of excellent quality and technically challenging they should be part of the standard repertoire of recorder players. A modern edition is available. The viola da gamba sonatas are of the same standard; unfortunately they are not recorded complete here. Hopefully the remaining sonatas will be recorded some day. The present performers deliver outstanding performances which fully explore the features of these works. Barbara Heindlmeier, Christian Heim and Marthe Perl - the latter two share the solo parts in the gamba sonatas - are outstanding performers and receive fine support from the continuo ensemble. The mixture of music for recorder and for viola da gamba works quite well. It lends this disc a good amount of variety and there is still much consistency as stylistically there is quite some similarity between these two collections. One doesn't need to be a recorder or viola da gamba aficionado to greatly enjoy this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

Relevant links:

Pamela Thorby
Ensemble La Ninfea

CD Reviews