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"Small is beautiful - Barocke Orchestermusik für Kammerensemble" [Baroque orchestral music for chamber ensemble]

Soloists of the Tiroler Barockinstrumentalisten

rec: Sept 11 - 15, 2017, Mieders (AUT), Gemeindesaal
Musikmuseum - CD13032 (© 2018) (53'21")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F (BWV 1047) (version for trumpet, recorder, oboe, violin and bc)aceg; Gottfried (Godfrey) FINGER (c1660-1730): Sonata for two recorders and bc in F, op. 4,6cd; Sonata for trumpet, oboe and bc in Cae; Sonata for two trumpets, two oboes, two violins and bc in Dabefgh; Sonata for two violins and bc in d minor, op. 5,3gh; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Concerto for trumpet, two oboes and bc in D (TWV 43,D7)aef; Quartet (Concerto/Sonata) for recorder, oboe, violin and bc in G (TWV 43,G6)ceg

Stefan Ennemosera, Christian Gruberb, trumpet; Julia Fritz, recorderc; Georg Fritz, recorderd, oboee; Eliosabeth Baumer, oboef; Claudia Norzg, Katharina Wessiackh, violin; Gerlinde Singer, cello; Max Volbers, harpsichord, organ

Composers of the baroque era were pragmatic. Most of their instrumental music was intended for performance among the aristocracy or the higher echelons of the bourgeoisie. They were aware that the instruments for which they scored their concertos and sonatas, were not always available. For that reason they often offered alternative scorings and they did not object to arrangements of their works. They often made their own arrangements, as we know from the oeuvre of the likes of Bach, Telemann and Handel. The present disc includes "baroque orchestral music for chamber ensemble". This suggests that we get here arrangements of some sort: reductions of the original scoring for a small ensemble. That is not entirely the case, though.

First of all, the use of terms like 'orchestral music' and 'chamber music' is questionable. Basically there was no such a thing as 'orchestral music' in the time of Bach and Telemann. There was no fixed number of players for the performance of pieces which today are generally considered 'orchestral works', such as Bach's Overtures. It is perfectly possible to play them with a very small group, even one instrument per part. The latter is quite common in Bach's Overture in b minor, for instance. The same goes for Telemann's many overtures and for concertos with one or several solo instruments. If performed with one instrument per part, these works are not different in any way from the many pieces which are today treated as 'chamber music'.

Secondly, in the programme recorded by members of the Tiroler Barockinstrumentalisten, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 is the only case of a reduction of the original scoring. That reduction is confined to the omission of the string parts in the tutti sections. Franz Gratl, in his liner-notes, states: "According to the musicologist Klaus Hoffmann the second Brandenburg Concerto is based on a work scored for quintet [trumpet, recorder, oboe and violin solo with basso continuo, without a strings ripieno]. The strings do indeed appear to have been added later and the composition is wholly convincing in the chamber version. The present recording is a practical realisation of Hoffmann's hypothesis (...)". This is one of the assets of this recording, as this version is a nice and interesting alternative to the many recordings of this concerto (often as part of the whole set) in the most common scoring.

Gratl suggests that Telemann's Concerto in D was originally also intended for an 'orchestral scoring'. The only copy of this work has been preserved in Schrank II, a collection of music manuscripts preserved in the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden, which includes the library of the Dresden court chapel, mainly the result of the collector's mania of Johann Georg Pisendel, its leader in Telemann's time. This copy was made by a certain Johann Gottfried Grundig, in a scoring for trumpet, two oboes and basso continuo. However, the cover mentions "viola" and this has given food to the idea that this piece may have been originally intended for a larger scoring. Whether that included ripieno strings is impossible to say. In any case, there is hardly any 'reduction' here; as no other version of this piece has been preserved, all recordings offer this same version, which has a form that is close to that of the concerto da camera, a popular genre in the baroque era.

It needs also be said that the word concerto does not mean anything as far as the line-up or even the texture of a piece is concerned. Some compositions by Telemann appear under the name of concerto in one source and as quatuor or sonata in another. The second work from his pen included here, the Quartet in G, is an example. It has come down to us in three copies. In Schrank II it has been preserved in a copy by Johann Joachim Quantz; here is it called concerto. That is also the title of a copy in the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek in Darmstadt, where the library of the court chapel of Darmstadt is preserved. In the time Christoph Graupner acted there as Kapellmeister, many compositions by Telemann were copied for performance by the court chapel. The library even includes a second copy of this piece, by Johann Samuel Endler; which has the title of sonata. It is a typical specimen of Telemann's art, who was famous for his quartets. The above-mentioned Quantz considered them models of this genre. The scoring includes a part for recorder, which is vintage Telemann: although the recorder was on its way of becoming obsolete in his time, to the advantage of the transverse flute, he continued to compose music with parts for recorder, as this was still very popular among amateurs. Those were the people for whom his chamber music was intended.

The programme opens with pieces by Gottfried Finger, and as welcome as these sonatas are - as he is not that well represented on disc - they have nothing to do with the concept of the programme. None of the pieces appears here in another scoring than that for which it was intended. Finger was from Moravia and was educated as a viol player. After some years in the service of Prince-Bishop Karl Liechtenstein-Kastelcorn in Olomouc, he moved to Munich. In the middle of the 1680s he settled in London. He was appointed as a member of the royal chapel, but lost that job with the Glorious Revolution as King James had to leave the country for France. In the next years Finger played as a freelance musician and composed music for the stage. He was one of the contestants to the competition which took place in 1700 in which composers were invited to set a libretto by William Congreve, The Judgement of Paris, to music. Four composers took part, and Finger landed at fourth place. He considered this as the result of the partiality of the judges and later Charles Burney seemed to share his view as he called him "the best musician perhaps among the candidates". The disappointment led him to leave the country in 1701 and never to return. Before his departure he sold his viols and a large part of his musical library. Apparently he wanted to close a chapter of his life.

Finger composed quite a large amount of instrumental music. The two sonatas without an opus number have been preserved in the British Library and could have been intended for performance in James's Catholic chapel, as Peter Holman suggests in his liner-notes to The Parley of Instruments's recording "Sound the Trumpet..." (Hyperion, 1996). As is so often the case in the baroque era, the trumpet keeps silent in the slow movements (Telemann's Concerto in D is an exception). Most movements in Finger's Sonata in C are without tempo indication. The performers decided to contrast the two sections of the second movement through a marked opposition between adagio and andante. The two trio sonatas are taken from collections which were published around 1701 in Amsterdam.

There is something about the performance practice which needs to be discussed. "The compositions of Finger, Telemann and Bach are performed at the lower French Kammerton tuning of 392 Hz - a tuning that was demonstrably used in central Germany around 1700 and therefore is a plausible option for the works of J.S. Bach". This seems plausible, and is at least an interesting option. However, does this justify the use of this tuning for the entire programme? Was this tuning used in Dresden, where the pieces by Telemann may have been performed? And what about Finger? The liner-notes don't answer these questions.

It did not spoil my enjoyment of this disc. I didn't know any of the players; they make a very good impression here, and I like the way they approach the music selected for this disc. The pieces by Finger are especially welcome; he is another composer, who deserves more attention. And, like I said, Bach is presented here as an interesting alternative to what is on the market. "Small is beautiful" indeed, if it is performed as well as on this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Tiroler Barockinstrumentalisten

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