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Italian concertos & sonatas

[I] "Favourites - Telemann and his subscribers"
Tabea Debus, recorder; Claudia Norz, Henry Tong, violin; Jordan Bowron, viola; Jonathan Rees, viola da gamba, cello; Tom Foster, harpsichord
rec: Nov 2017, London, St Mary's Harrow-on-the-Hill
TYXart - TXA 18107 (© 2019) (66'34")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/JP
Cover, track-list & booklet

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Geist und Seele wird verwirret (BWV 35) (sinfonia I; sinfonia II); Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe (BWV 156) (sinfonia); Michel BLAVET (1700-1768) / Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Suite (ed. Tabea Debus) ([Blavet] Le jaloux corrigé: Pantomime; Pas de deux; [Telemann] Flavius Bertaridus, TWV 21,27: Kränkt mich nicht, ihr nassen Augen; [Blavet] Le jaloux corrigé: Passepied; Contre danse; Tambourin I/II); George Frideric HANDEL / Georg Philipp TELEMANN: Sonata (No. 1) (ed. Tabea Debus) ([Telemann] Richardus I, TWV 22,8: Torrente cresciuto per torbida piena; Flavius Bertaridus, TWV 21,27: Du stiller Wohlplatz aller Freude; [Handel] Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Da tempeste; Il delirio amoroso, HWV 99: Per te lasciai luce; [Telemann] Flavius Bertaridus, TWV 21,27: Fa pur guerra); Sonata (No. 2) (ed. Tabea Debus) ([Telemann] Flavius Bertaridus, TWV 21,27: Ich eile zu den grünen Matten; [Handel] Alessandro, HWV 21: Placa l'alma; Vibra cortese amor; Lusinghe più care); Georg Philipp TELEMANN: Concerto in F (TWV 51,F1); Sonata in C (TWV 41,C2)

[II] "Le Ballet Imaginaire - Baroque Masterworks around 1730"
Jeremias Schwarzer, recorder; Ralf Waldner, harpsichord
rec: Sept 18 - 20, 2018, Erlangen (D), Musikinstitut
Genuin - GEN 19646 (© 2019) (79'26")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Sonata in g minor (BWV 1020) (attr) (transp to a minor); Sonata in A (BWV 1032) (ed. A. Dürr); Suite in c minor (BWV 997); Nicolas CHÉDEVILLE (1705-1782): Sonata in g minor; George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): Sonata in F (HWV 369); Sonata in B flat (HWV 377); Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Fantasia III in b minor (TWV 40,4); Fantasia X in f sharp minor (TWV 40,11); Fantasia XI in G (TWV 40,12); Sonata in B flat (TWV 42,B4)

It seems that the repertoire from the 18th century specifically intended for the recorder, is rather limited. This can partly be explained from the fact that the (baroque) recorder's heydays were the late 17th and the early 18th centuries. When the greatest composers from the late baroque period wrote their works, the recorder was in the process of being overshadowed by the transverse flute. No wonder, then, that the recorder players of today often turn to music written for other instruments and adapt them for the recorder. Such arrangements constitute the largest part of the programmes on the two discs under review here.

Tabea Debus has taken Georg Philipp Telemann as her starting point. That is a logical choice, as he composed more for the recorder than his colleagues Bach, Graupner and Fasch. His chamber music was almost exclusively intended for the amateurs of his time. The programme opens with the Sonata in C from the collection Der getreue Music-Meister, a musical periodical which included pieces of various kinds that were within the grasp of amateurs. Debus then continues with music by composers who in some way were connected to Telemann. The title of her disc tells what it is that connected them: both Bach and Handel were among the subscribers of editions whose publication Telemann announced in the newspapers and through agents. Whereas in Bach's oeuvre one cannot find any concertos or sonatas for the recorder, Handel wrote several for it, but - probably because they are so well-known and so often recorded - Debus decided not to record any of them, and to transcribe arias from his operas instead.

This is a fully legitimate procedure. The London publisher Walsh printed a collection of arias from Handel's opera Alessandro in arrangements for recorder. It is not likely that Handel himself had anything to do with that, but he himself regularly incorporated vocal music into his instrumental works. Debus plays the aria 'Placa l'alma' from Alessandro, and this was also included by Handel himself into his Sonata in C (HWV 365). Rather than creating a sonata or suite of such Handel arrangements, Debus decided to mix them with comparable arrangements of arias from operas by Telemann. This idea is inspired by the fact that they were in close contact, and that Telemann performed some of Handel's operas, partly arranged, in Hamburg.

Bach is represented with three instrumental movements from cantatas. The two sinfonias from Geist und Seele wird verwirret (BWV 35) include obbligato parts for organ. If I am not mistaken, they have been recorded before with the recorder playing the right hand of the organ part. That is a logical option, as the recorder has considerable similarities with the organ, which is basically also a wind instrument. The slow movement is the sinfonia that opens Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe (BWV 196), which has an obbligato part for oboe that can easily be adapted to the recorder.

Telemann loved the French style, and therefore French music could not be omitted. He visited Paris, and several of his works were published and performed in France. The flautist Michel Blavet was involved in the performance of his so-called 'Paris Quartets'. He may also have acted as Telemann's agent in France. Debus decided to arrange extracts from Blavet's comic opera Le jaloux corrigé. However, Debus does not mention in her liner-notes that this work does not only include music by Blavet, but is in fact a kind of pasticcio, which also contains music by, among others, Pergolesi and Galuppi. In the middle she included another Telemann transcription, an aria from his opera Flavius Bertaridus.

It is fitting that the programme closes with one of Telemann's recorder concertos. It further underlines the importance of the recorder in Telemann's oeuvre.

Tabea Debus is an excellent recorder player; I have greatly enjoyed several of her previous recordings, and this disc is no exception. The way she has put together the programme is quite original and it is nice to hear some stuff which goes beyond the obvious. Her colleagues in the ensemble are of the same calibre.

Bach, Handel and Telemann are also the central figures in the programme recorded by Jeremias Schwarzer and Ralf Waldner. They also play mainly arrangements of some kind; only two sonatas by Handel and a sonata by Chédeville are performed as they were conceived by their composers.

The programme opens with Bach's Suite in c minor (BWV 997) - here called Partita - which is generally considered a piece for lute. However, it has been recorded on keyboard instruments, such as the harpsichord, the Lautenklavier and even the fortepiano. A performance in a scoring for recorder and basso continuo is not new to the catalogue either; I know of at least a recording by Hugo Reyne. It works pretty well in this line-up. The Sonata in g minor (BWV 1020) for harpsichord and violin or transverse flute is one of Bach's most popular works, but is of doubtful authenticity. Despite some elements that are reminiscent of his style, it is generally considered a work from the pen of either Wilhelm Friedemann or Carl Philipp Emanuel. It is performed here on the alto recorder, and therefore it was transposed to a minor. The third piece by Bach is the Sonata in A (BWV 1032) for harpsichord and transverse flute. There is no doubt about its authenticity, but unfortunately it has survived incomplete. Here the performers play the reconstruction by Alfred Dürr. No transposition is needed, because Schwarzer plays it on the voice flute, which has the same tessitura as the transverse flute.

He does the same in the fantasias by Telemann. These are part of a set of twelve which Telemann published at the time he also produced pieces for violin and viola da gamba respectively, all without basso continuo, as well as fantasias for keyboard. These fantasias are intended for the transverse flute, and are specimens of the goûts réunis, the mixture of the French, Italian and German styles, which was Telemann's ideal. They are often played on the recorder, usually in transposition, but here Schwarzer plays them in their original keys. The Sonata in B flat is taken from the collection Essercizii Musici. In his liner-notes, Schwarzer states that this trio sonata was originally conceived for a melody instrument and two harpsichords. That is not entirely correct. First of all, the melody part is specifically intended for the recorder, not just any treble instrument. Secondly, the harpsichord is given an obbligato part and the third part is the basso continuo, but it is unlikely that Telemann intended this part to be played on the harpsichord. I know of no recording where it is performed that way. In most cases it is realised on a string bass (or bassoon), which is a fully legitimate option, or on a plucked instrument, such as the theorbo. Obviously it is performed here on recorder and single harpsichord.

Due to the popularity of Handel's music, unscrupulous publishers, such as John Walsh, published sonatas under his name which are either of doubtful authenticity or, if they are undoubtedly from his pen, are set for other instruments than intended by the composer. It has caused modern scholars many difficulties in establishing the 'authentic' scoring. Today it is generally assumed that six sonatas were originally conceived for the recorder. Two of them are the Sonata in F (HWV 369) and the Sonata in B flat (HWV 377), included here. They are among the most popular pieces for the recorder from the late baroque period. In his sonatas Handel often included passages from vocal works, such as operas.

Lastly, Nicolas Chédeville, who seems a bit of an odd man out in this recital. However, although being French, he was very interested in Italian music, and published arrangements of Vivaldi concertos, in particular the 'Four Seasons', in arrangements for his own instrument, the musette. That was also one of the options for the performance of the six sonatas which were published in 1739 under the name of Vivaldi. Schwarzer states that at the end of the 20th century it was revealed that Chédeville was the real composer. That is incorrect; his identity was already announced as early as 1749. The Sonata in g minor is the best-known from the set. Chédeville shows here to be well versed in the Italian idiom and especially Vivaldi's style.

Jeremias Schwarzer is at home in both early and contemporary music. However, his biography suggests that the latter is the major part of his activities. This could explain why I have not heard him before, as far as I can remember. I am glad to have had the opportunity to hear him in 18th-century repertoire, because I very much like this recital. Obviously, if one is acquainted with the transverse flute in Bach's sonatas, one needs to adapt his expectations, considering the fact that the recorder has limited dynamic capabilities and a smaller range of colours. In a piece as the Suite in c minor, that is less of a problem, as that was not intended for the flute. However, as Schwarzer states, the recorder has the virtue that it allows for a very sharp articulation, and that comes especially to the fore in Telemann's fantasias. The use of just a harpsichord in the items with basso continuo is another interesting aspect of this disc. That was probably the rule, whereas today a string bass and often also a plucked instrument are almost indispensable. This disc one again shows that they are not really needed, especially when the harpsichord is played so excellently as here by Ralf Waldner.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Tabea Debus
Jeremias Schwarzer

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