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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Per tromba & Corno da caccia"

Dir: Jean-François Madeuf

rec: June 2018, Centeilles (F), Église Notre-Dame
Ricercar - RIC397 (© 2018) (57'48")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: [Rostocker] Suite for trumpet, two oboes and bassoon in E flat; Maximilian FIEDLER (fl c1750): Concerto à 3 for two horns and bassoon in E flat; Georg Philipp TELEMANN: Air de trompette in C (TWV 41,C1); Concerto for trumpet, two oboes and bc in D (TWV 43,D7); Concerto for two oboes and bassoon in F (attr); March for two horns, three oboes, bassoon and drum in F (TWV 50,43)a; Menuet for two horns (TWV 40,110); Overture for two horns, two oboes and bassoon in F (TWV 44,16)

Jean-François Madeuf, trumpet, horn; Pierre-Yves Madeuf, horn; Elsa Franck, Johanne Maître, oboe; Jérémie Papasergio, bassoon; Elisabeth Geiger, harpsichord
with: Philippe Canguilhem, oboea; Jean Chamboux, druma

Music for wind instruments - in modern performance practice that is either music for cornetts and sackbuts in repertoire of the renaissance and the early 17th century, or Harmoniemusik, which was frequently written in the classical period. It seems that wind music from the late 17th and early 18th centuries is largely neglected. Recently several discs with such music have been released. Carin van Heerden directed L'Orfeo Bläserensemble in five works by Georg Philipp Telemann, which is the first volume in a complete recording of music for wind. In 2015 Resonus Classics released also a disc with wind music by Telemann, under the title "The Saxon Alternative". The title indicates that in the first half of the 18th century music for wind band was very much a German phenomenon.

That is remarkable as the oboe - an indispensable part of the wind band - was a French invention. Louis XIV employed a group of twelve oboists, called Les Douze Grands Hautbois. As everything French exerted a strong attraction on royalty and aristocracy across Europe, oboes - mostly alongside bassoons - appeared in court chapels outside France. Some German composers had also a special liking of the French syle, and that goes in particular for Telemann. This explains that the two discs mentioned above, are entirely devoted to pieces from his pen.

However, in Germany the wind band had a special flavour due to the inclusion of horns. The horn's history goes back to the Middle Ages, but technical changes in the early decades of the 18th century allowed it to play an increasingly important role at the courts of kings and aristocrats. From ancient times the horn was associated with the hunt, and in the 18th century it was naturally connected to the courts of kings and aristocrats, given that hunting was one of their main preoccupations. Dresden was an important centre of horn playing and the court chapel had several virtuosic horn players in its ranks. But Telemann also composed some works with obbligato horn parts for Ernst Ludwig, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, the employer of Christoph Graupner and a fanatical hunter.

Originally music for wind band was played outdoors, but in the course of time such music was also performed in the private rooms of aristocrats. That had consequences for the way it was performed. Outdoors the basso continuo was played at the bassoon, whereas for indoors performances it was joined by a harpsichord. In some cases the bassoon may have been replaced by a string bass, such as the cello. The oboes could even be replaced by violins.

Telemann is the starting point in the recording of the ensemble Eolus, but his pieces are embedded in a programme which shows the variety in the repertoire for wind band at his time. It opens with the Overture in F by Telemann, called here a 'suite', but 'quintet' in the catalogue at musiqueorguequebec. It is comparable with the 'conventional' orchestral overtures or suites, of which Telemann composed so many, and which reflect his love of the French style. Like in his overtures with strings, we find in this piece several character pieces, such as 'Le Ris' (the laughter) and 'Les Droles' (the droll company). The last movement is called 'Fanfare'. It has the typical scoring for two oboes, two horns and basso continuo. According to Jean-Paul Madeuf, in his liner-notes, this piece was designed for concert use, but as the copy includes only a basso continuo line for the bassoon, he opted for an 'open-air' version.

Much better known is Telemann's Concerto in D, which has the texture of a concerto da camera, as it is scored for trumpet, two oboes and basso continuo. Like most of his concertos, it has four movements in the order of the Corellian sonata da chiesa. It was customary that brass instruments did not participate in slow movements. Here that is the case in the third movement, a siciliano.

The remaining pieces by Telemann are rather curious. The Menuet in C and the Air de trompette in C for trumpet and basso continuo are taken from the collection Der getreue Music-Meister, which appeared in the form of a periodical in the years 1728/29. As this was intended for amateurs, we have to conclude that the playing of horns and trumpets was not uncommon among them. How many were really able to play those instruments well, is probably hard to establish. The March in F for two horns, three oboes and bassoon reminds us of the most original use of wind instruments. It dates from 1716 and was specifically written for performance by a military regiment. Madeuf adds that the use of a drum is not indicated in the score, but was essential in a piece like this to set the rhythm. Drum parts were usually improvised.

The Concerto in F has been preserved without the name of the composer, but is attributed to Telemann. It is scored for two oboes and bassoon, and consists of four movements. The absence of a continuo instrument in the score indicates that it was intended for outdoor performance. The same source includes the anonymous Suite in E flat (probably also originally called an ouverture), scored for trumpet, three oboes and bassoon. The fact that some of the movements have French and others Italian titles indicates that it is a product of the goûts réunis which was the ideal of many German composers of the time. Next to nothing is known about Maximilian Fiedler; he has no entry in New Grove. His Concerto à 3 in E flat is scored for two horns and bassoon and is in four movements. According to Madeuf, it is the single piece from the Baroque period that was composed for this formation.

The natural trumpet and natural horn are reckoned among the hardest instruments to play, even when - as is common today - vent holes are added to correct tuning. Jean-François Madeuf is a pioneer in the playing of these instruments as they were originally built, without such vent holes. He and his brother Pierre-Yves have achieved an astonishing level in the playing of real natural trumpets and horns. Whereas the horns are modern copies, the trumpets are real historical instruments, dating from the early 18th century. The booklet explains the aspects of performance practice relevant for the repertoire included here. This not only concerns the playing of trumpet and horn, but also that of the woodwind, for instance fingerings and the kind of reeds used. The result is quite impressive. This recording demonstrates that the adoption of the 'right' instruments and playing techniques is not a matter of musical archaeology, but an essential tool for a convincing interpretation.

There are a couple of issues I need to mention. The copy of the anonymous Suite in E flat includes a part for a third oboe, which most of the time doubles the first oboe. The performers have adapted this piece in such a way that it can be played with two oboes. I don't understand the reasons for that, as in the March in F a third oboist takes part. Why not here too? In the opening movement from Telemann's Overture in F the performers ignored the repeat marking in the fast section, another decision why I find hard to understand. The Menuet is played in a different key than notated. "We have chosen to perform it in the higher key of F, given that this was more in favour with the Germans than the lower key of D that was used by the French at that time." Was this piece originally written in D? According to musiqueorguequebec it is in C. The opposition of French and German taste is interesting here. Considering Telemann's preference of the French style, could he have intended this piece to be played in the 'French manner'? Lastly, in two items the harpsichord participates in the basso continuo, but I have not been able to hear it.

These issues don't prevent me from strongly recommend this disc. It is a brilliant example of what can be achieved, if performers play the right instruments and adopt the historically documented playing techniques. This disc is an example of superb music making.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

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