musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Spirituosa"

Concerto Melante; Reinhold Friedrich, trumpeta; Hille Perl, treble violb

rec: Oct 21 - 22, 2009 & March 4 - 6, 2010, Berlin-Dahlem, Jesus-Christus-Kirche
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88697626632 (© 2010) (71'27")

Sonata for trumpet, 2 violins, viola and bc in D (TWV 44,1)a; Sonata for violin, cello and bc in G (TWV 42,G7); Sonata for violin, treble viol and bc in A (TWV 42,A10)b; Sonata for violin, viola and bc in D (TWV 42,D11); Sonata for 2 violins and bc in e minor (TWV 42,e12); Sonata for 2 violins and bc in b minor (TWV 42,h5); Sonata for 2 violins, viola and bass in A (TWV 40,200); Sonata for 2 violins, 2 violas, cello and bc in A (TWV 44,35); Sonate polonaise for 2 violins and bc in a minor (TWV 42,a5)

Bernhard Forck, Raimar Orlovsky, violin; Ulrich Knörzer, Walter Küssner, viola; Kristin von der Goltz, cello; Ulrich Wolff, viola da gamba, violone; Björn Colell, theorbo; Raphael Alpermann, harpsichord

Georg Philipp Telemann wasn't only Germany's most productive composer, but also the most versatile. There is no genre to which he didn't contribute, no musical form he didn't make use of and hardly any instrument for which he didn't compose at least some music. His versatility is demonstrated on this disc which is devoted to music for strings. The participation of a trumpet in one of the pieces doesn't make a real difference in that respect.

It seems likely most music on the programme wasn't written for amateurs, but rather for professional musicians. There are several reasons to assume that. First of all, none of the compositions played here was printed. That is notable as Telemann was an avid publisher of music - he often took care for the printing process personally. A large part of the sonatas are part of the collection of Telemann manuscripts in Darmstadt - the result of the copying of his music at the court when Telemann's friend Christoph Graupner was Kapellmeister there. Secondly, many pieces show a strong amount of counterpoint which is mostly absent in his music for amateurs which can be found in printed collections. Thirdly, the scoring of some pieces is rather unusual: the treble viol wasn't a very common instrument, and it is not very likely amateurs played the trumpet at home or in social gatherings. And lastly, the instrumental parts are often considerably more virtuosic than those in Telemann's music for amateurs.

In that respect this disc sheds light on a lesser-known aspect of Telemann's compositional activities. Several features for which he is widely known are present, though. He was a master in mixing the various styles of his time. That is the case here too: in the Sonate polonaise in a minor (TWV 42,a5) the Polish influences of the fast movements are juxtaposed by two slow movements of Italian pathos. The Sonata in b minor (TWV 42,h5) is written in French style as the descriptions of the movements suggest: tendrement, allegrement, chandon and allegrement. The first contains dotted rhythms like the French opera overture. At the same time this sonata contains counterpoint which reflects rather the German tradition. The treble viol or dessus de viole was particularly popular in France, and therefore the Sonata in A (TWV 42,A10) also reflects the French taste. But it begins with a cantabile which is rather in the Italian style.

This sonata reflects Telemann's liking of writing for rather unusual combinations of instruments. Another example is the Sonata in G (TWV 42,G7) which has parts for violin and cello. The two instruments are treated on equal footing, and it is notable how they swap roles during the proceedings. When the violin plays solo the cello is mostly joining the harpsichord in the basso continuo. When the cello gets a solo passage the violin plays largely colla parte with the bass. This sonata is an example of a composition which is more virtuosic than music which Telemann wrote for amateurs. Another unusual scoring is the combination of violin and viola in the Sonata in D (TWV 42,D11): the viola was usually only used to provide harmonic filling. That is also one of the roles of the trumpet in the Sonata in D (TWV 44,1): it plays either colla parte with the first violin, is used in the interest of the harmony, and adds some colour to the string ensemble. Therefore this sonata is basically also a piece for strings.

The Sonata in e minor (TWV 42,e12) is another example of a sonata which is dominated by counterpoint. This explains that it was used during the liturgy during services of the Hofkapelle in Dresden. The disc ends with the Sonata in A (TWV 40,200). The number in the catalogue is remarkable: the category which is classified as 40 consists of pieces without basso continuo. Here the scoring is two violins, viola and bass. In this recording the harpsichord participates in the performance of the bass. I wonder if that is in line with Telemann's intention.

But that is really the only criticism I can think of as far as the performances are concerned. The playing of Concerto Melante reminds me of those of the disbanded ensemble Musica antiqua Köln: dynamic accents on the strong beats, large contrasts between slow and fast movements, technical brilliance and much attention to the expressivity of the slow movements. If you think you know your Telemann, don't miss this disc because it reveals a side of him you may not know yet. And Concerto Melante is the best possible guide in this terra incognita.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

Relevant links:

Concerto Melante

CD Reviews