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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Sonatas and Sonatinas"

Heiko ter Schegget, recorder; Mieneke van der Velden, viola da gamba; Benny Aghassi, bassoon; Zvi Meniker, harpsichord

rec: June 21 - 23, 2010, Abtei Marienmünster (former Ackerhaus)
MDG - 905 1693-6 (© 2011) (67'31")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Sonata in C (TWV 41,C2); Sonata in C (TWV 41,C5) [3]; Sonata in d minor (TWV 41,d4) [3]; Sonata in F (TWV 41,F2); Sonata in f minor (TWV 41,f1) [1]; Sonata in B flat (TWV 41,B3) [1]; Sonatina in c minor (TWV 41,c2) [2]; Sonatina in a minor (TWV 41,a4) [2]

(Sources: [1] Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728-29; [2] Nouvelles sonatines, 1730-31; [3] Essercizii Musici, 1740

Georg Philipp Telemann is quite popular among recorder players. More than any other composer of the German baroque he has provided them with fine music to play. The recorder is often included in the scoring of cantatas, oratorios and orchestral overtures. More importantly, his chamber music oeuvre includes a considerable number of pieces which are either specifically written for or at least playable on the recorder. This instrument was mostly played by amateurs, and this explains why many pieces appear in collections which were intended for the growing market of amateur musicians.

Telemann not only had a good nose for the fashion of his time, he was also a clever businessman. In 1728 he launched a periodical, called Der getreue Music-Meister. It included pieces of all kinds and in all sorts of scorings: opera arias, harpsichord pieces, canons and solo sonatas. If music-lovers wanted to have complete sonatas they had to subscribe as he split multi-movement pieces across various issues. A good example is the Sonata in f minor whose four movements were divided over four issues. Today this is one of Telemann's most popular works, scored for bassoon and bc, but also playable on the recorder. In particular in collections like this most pieces can be played on various instruments, even if that is not specifically indicated by the composer.

Therefore there is no objection to the scoring of the Sonata in B flat here. In Der getreue Music-Meister Telemann himself had offered various alternatives: viola da gamba and bc or several combinations without basso continuo, like recorder and viola da gamba, and even a transposition to A major for the scoring of transverse flute or violin and viola da gamba without basso continuo. Here it is played with recorder, bassoon and bc. It is a strict canon; the second instrument enters at various moments during the sonata.

Another important collection of solo sonatas and trios is Essercizii musici which until recently was considered a rather late work, dating from 1740. But in his liner notes Telemann scholar Steven Zohn states that they were likely written around 1727. This earlier date allows him to conclude that Telemann ceased composing anything specifically for the recorder after 1733, reflecting the vanishing popularity of the instrument. The Essercizii musici include no less than six pieces for recorder and bc or trios for recorder and a second instrument plus basso continuo. For this recording two of these have been chosen: the Solo 4 (in the track-list Sonata in d minor), and the Solo 10, or Sonata in C (TWV 41,C5). The latter has only three movements, but the first of them comprises four sections: adagio-allegro-adagio-allegro. The Sonata in d minor (erroneously catalogued as d2 in the track-list) shows that Telemann's music is certainly not devoid of serious expression, as comes in particular to the fore in the opening affettuoso. The same is true for the above-mentioned Sonata in f minor, whose opening movement has the indication triste.

Two of the pieces are called sonatina. They are from a collection of six Nouvelles sonatines which dates from 1730/31. Four of them are scored for violin or transverse flute, the sonatinas 2 and 5 for recorder. The problem with this set is that only the partbooks for the melody instrument have been preserved; the basso continuo part has disappeared. In the 1990s the bass parts of the two sonatinas for recorder were rediscovered in the Dresden court music collection. This is an indication that, although Telemann's chamber works were intended for amateurs, professional players considered them good enough to add to their repertoire. The discovery of these basso continuo parts therefore not only allows the performance of these two pieces, it also contributes to our knowledge of the reception of Telemann's music.

Some of the pieces on this disc are fairly well-known, but the sonatinas are new to the catalogue - as far as I know - and some are performed in a different scoring than usual. Heiko ter Schegget and his colleagues provide very fine performances, lively and passionate in the fast movements, and with sensitivity in the slow movements. Ter Schegget plays two different recorders: his own copy of a Jacob Denner, which in his view has a more Italian character, whereas the other, by Johann Heytz of around 1725 is more French in sound. Interestingly he uses the original instrument from the collection of Frans Brüggen. It has some deficits; in the liner-notes Ter Schegget writes that he has used some technical tricks to overcome them. Only in the fast movements was that not possible. Here he has turned to his own copy of this instrument. Even so, this instrument is a beauty to hear, and the use of an original instrument is a bonus.

One doesn't need to be a recorder buff to love this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

Heiko ter Schegget

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