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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Virtuoso traveller – duet and trio sonatas

Trio Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in d minor (TWV 42,d10) [08:33]
Trio Sonata for oboe, violin and bc in g minor (TWV 42,g5) [11:19]
Trio Sonata for recorder, harpsichord and bc in B flat (TWV 42,B4) [08:08]
Sonata for cello and bc in D (TWV 41,D6) [08:09]
Trio Sonata for oboe, harpsichord and bc in E flat (TWV 42,Es3) [10:37]
Trio Sonata for recorder, violin and bc in a minor (TWV 42,a4) [10:29]
Amarillis: (Héloïse Gaillard (recorder, oboe); David Plantier (violin); Emmanuel Jacques (cello); Laura Monica Pustilnik (archlute); Violaine Cochard (harpsichord))
rec. March 2006, Château de Juigné-sur-Sarthe, France. DDD
AMBROISIE AM 112 [57:19]






For many people the German baroque is first and foremost represented by Johann Sebastian Bach. But in his time his colleague Georg Philipp Telemann was by far the most celebrated composer in Germany. There are a number of reasons for this, but probably the two most important are that Telemann composed for a wide circle of music-lovers, from amateurs to professional players, and that a large part of his musical output was published during his lifetime, mostly by himself. Today Telemann is still a very popular composer among instrumentalists, as the many recordings of his orchestral and chamber music testify, but among the public at large he is not always valued. It is perhaps necessary to be a player yourself to really appreciate the quality of Telemann's compositions and his idiomatic writing for every single instrument – one of the features of his compositional style.

Bach and Telemann were not just colleagues: they knew each other well, and had a friendly relationship, as the fact that Telemann became the godfather of Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel shows. In his autobiography Telemann appears to be a rather modest and friendly character, without a big ego. He not only was on friendly terms with Bach, but also with Handel, with whom he corresponded, among others, about their mutual interest: flowers. In a way one could call Telemann a 'multicultural composer', as he travelled a lot – hence the title of this disc: 'Virtuoso traveller' – and incorporated everything he heard into his own music. Here we not only find characteristics of the traditional German style – in particular polyphony – but also influences of the Italian and the French styles as well as traces of Polish folk music.

His chamber music reflects his versatility as a composer, as he used several forms and several styles and wrote for almost every instrument around. Four of the six pieces on this disc are from the last collection of music he published, 'Essercizii Musici'. When the publication was advertised in 1740 he announced his withdrawal from publishing. The collection consists of 12 solos – sonatas for one instrument and bc – and 12 trios. The form of the trio sonata was something he especially valued: "I paid particular attention to trio-composing, and so arranged it that the second part seemed to be the first, and the Bass developed in a natural melody and in closely following harmony, every note of which had to be this way and not any different. People sought to flatter me, too, saying that I had shown my best powers in this composition."

The many trio sonatas Telemann composed are evidence of his love for this form, and they are well-represented in the catalogue. One wonders why they are so often recorded, whereas other pieces in Telemann's output are still neglected. Having said that Amarillis has made a good choice for this disc, in which tradition and innovation are represented. The trio sonatas scored for two treble instruments – recorder, oboe or violin – and bc are examples of tradition: many works of this kind were written in the first half of the 18th century in Germany and elsewhere. The first item on the disc, which is not in the collection, also belongs to this category. The innovation comes with the sonatas with obbligato harpsichord – unusual at the time, and the first sign of the emancipation of the keyboard from a mere basso continuo instrument in the ensemble.

There is much to enjoy in this recording. The playing is lively, the fast movements are played at the appropriate speed, and there is no lack of expression in the slow movements. But there are some minuses which can't be overlooked. I like the ornamentation the players are adding, but there is some inconsistency here: in some movements there is plenty of it, whereas in others there is very little. The same is true for the use of accents and the differentiation between notes. The first two movements of the first item of this disc, the Trio Sonata in d minor, are quite different in this respect. In general I had liked more contrasts in dynamics and articulation.

The sound of the violin is a bit thin: I have heard players with a fuller and stronger tone than David Plantier produces here. As a result the balance between the violin and in particular the oboe (Sonata in g minor) is not ideal. That is also the case in the sonatas with obbligato harpsichord – the latter is playing the second fiddle, which is contrary to Telemann's intentions. This probably is a matter of recording technique.

There are some moments when the tempo slows for a moment – something which can be used to great effect for rhetorical reasons, but here they seem a little arbitrary, for instance towards the end of the last movement of the last sonata on the programme. In that movement the rhythmic pulse is enhanced by a prominent role of the archlute, partly used as a percussion instrument. This seems to be the fashion of the day, which I definitely don't like. In this movement it is something not called for. The same happens in the last movement of the first sonata, but there it is part of a specific interpretative approach, as Héloïse Gaillard writes in the booklet: "we have chosen to underline the folk-like character with a hurdy-gurdy effect in the violin's double stops". Whether one likes it or not, from this perspective the adding of percussive elements makes sense.

The sonata for cello and bc comes from another of Telemann's collections, 'Der Getreue Music-Meister' of 1723. It must be one of the first sonatas for cello in Germany, where at the time the viola da gamba was still very dominant. Emmanuel Jacques gives a lively and contrasting performance, although not always very subtle.

To sum up: these are generally good and enjoyable performances of fine music, but inconsistent and unbalanced in some respects. For the complete collection 'Essercizii Musici' the best choice is still Camerata Köln (deutsche harmonia mundi).

Johan van Veen

 


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