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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767): "Suite in a minor & Double concertos"

Dorothee Oberlinger, recorder; Michael Schmidt-Casdorf, transverse flutea; Vittorio Ghielmi, viola da gambab; Makiko Kubarayashi, bassoonc
Ensemble 1700

rec: Sept 29 - Oct 2, 2012, Neumarkt, Reitstadel
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88765445172 (© 2013) (74'07")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Concerto for recorder, bassoon, strings and bc in F (TWV 52,F1)c; Concerto for recorder, transverse flute, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 52,e1)a; Concerto for recorder, viola da gamba, strings and bc in a minor (TWV 52,a1)b; Overture for recorder, strings and bc in a minor (TWV 55,a2)

Rüdiger Lotter, Matthias Hummel, Adrian Bleyer, Chouchanne Siranossian, Maria Grokhotowa, Katja Grüttner, violin; Florian Deuter, viola; Luise Buchberger, cello; Jörg Meder, violone; Alexander Puliaev, harpsichord

Georg Philipp Telemann was the most prolific and versatile composer of the baroque era. His oeuvre is huge and he contributed to every genre. His versatility comes especially to the fore in his instrumental music in which he incorporated elements of the main styles of his time. The title of Dorothee Oberlinger's liner-notes sums it up pretty well: "In the 'mixed taste' - Barbaric beauty, French charm and Italian brilliance in Telemann's music".

The French and the Italian styles were the main issues in European music. The splendour of the French court under Louis XIV was envied and copied by aristocrats across Europe and the performance of music in the French style was greatly appreciated. At the same time Italian music found wide appeal because of its theatrical character. Among German composers of around 1700 some preferred the French style, whereas others felt more attracted to the Italian taste. In the early decades of the 18th century most composers aimed at mixing the best of both, and Telemann was one of them. In his oeuvre he added another element: folk music. In his early years he became acquainted with the traditional music of Poland and Bohemia, and he was deeply impressed. "It's hard to believe what wonderful ideas such bagpipers or fiddlers come up with when they start to improvise as soon as the dancers take a break. An attentive listener could gather ideas from them in the space of a week that would last a lifetime". The 'barbaric beauty' of this kind of music, as Telemann called it, time and again turns up in his own compositions. Every piece at the present disc bears witness to that.

It is for a good reason that they are all pretty well-known. That has also to do with the inclusion of a solo part for the recorder. Most recorder music from the 18th century is chamber music, written largely for amateurs. At the time Telemann was in his prime the recorder was gradually overshadowed by the transverse flute. As a result there is relatively little music for recorder in larger scorings. Telemann is one of those composers who regularly gave the instrument a prominent role. The Overture in a minor is one of his most popular pieces. The form of the orchestral suite is French, and was modelled after Jean-Baptiste Lully's operas which included large numbers of dances. Its French origin comes especially to the fore in the opening ouverture. It is followed by a character piece, Les Plaisirs, which is in fact a bourrée. With the third movement Telemann introduces the Italian style: it is called air à l'italien and has the theatrical character one associates with Italian music. Polish elements turn up in the réjouissance - in the form of a gavotte - and the concluding polonoise.

Equally popular is the Concerto in e minor in which Telemann juxtaposes the 'old-fashioned' recorder and the fashionable transverse flute. It is a concerto in four movements, which are strongly different in character. The first movement is an expressive duet of the two instruments in thirds, the second a dramatic allegro in Italian style. The closing presto is another piece with Polish influences. In the last episode it quotes a Polish popular song.

The combination of recorder and transverse flute was rather unlikely at the time, but exactly that seems to have inspired Telemann. He often composed pieces for uncommon scorings as the two remaining works show. The Concerto in a minor for recorder and viola da gamba is a perfect example, although the solo instruments have in common that they were both old-fashioned and basically belonged to the 17th century. Stylistically this concerto is anything but old-fashioned. It opens with a grave in French style which includes dotted rhythms. It then turns Italian with a lively and theatrical allegro and an expressive dolce, and closes with an allegro which reflects once again Telemann's liking of folk music.

In the Concerto in F Telemann combines two wind instruments. That in itself was not uncommon, but the bassoon didn't play a major role as a solo instrument at the time. Vivaldi composed a large number of bassoon concertos, but in the German baroque such concertos are rare. It is the most purely Italian piece in the programme, and includes sighing figures in various movements. In particular the second movement has a theatrical character. The closing allegro has the form of a fugue.

The four compositions on this disc may be rather well-known, but Telemann aficionados who have them already on disc should still consider this new recording. The contrasts between the various styles are strongly emphasized. In particular the folk music elements are given much attention. In some recordings these are a little smoothed down, but here they are presented in all their 'barbaric beauty'. It results in these performances being pretty exciting. There is not a dull moment here, thanks first of all to Telemann, but also thanks to the performers who explore every detail in the scores. Dorothee Oberlinger and her colleagues add more ornamentation in the solo parts than I have heard in other recordings. Sometimes I wondered whether it was a bit too much of a good thing, but that is also a matter of taste, and at least they are consistent.

In the Concerto in F I was not completely satisfied with the balance between the recorder and the bassoon. I felt that the latter was a little overshadowed by the recorder. The tutti are played by three first and three second violins. I probably would have preferred a somewhat smaller body, in the interest of a good balance. In the opening and closing episodes of the largo from the Concerto in e minor the harpsichord makes a little too much fuss.

However, these are minor issues. This is a compelling and entertaining disc which demonstrates Telemann's unbridled creativity.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

Relevant links:

Dorothee Oberlinger

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