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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Suite (Ouverture) in A minor for recorder, strings, and basso continuo TWV55:a2 ***
Concerto in E minor for recorder, transverse flute, strings and basso continuo *
Concerto in G for viola, strings and basso continuo **
Ouverture des Nations ancient et modernes in G, for strings and continuo TWV55:G4 *
Frans Brüggen (recorder)
Frans Vester (transverse flute)
Gustav Leonhardt (harpsichord)
Chamber Orchestra of Amsterdam *
André Rieu (conductor) *
Concerto Amsterdam **
Frans Brüggen (conductor) **
Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester ***
Friedrich Tilegant (conductor) ***
Recorded at Bennebroek, Netherlands in December 1967 and May 1968
TELDEC APEX 0927 40843 2 [68.51]
This is a highly enjoyable disc, full of joyfully tuneful music which is continually full of surprises. The degree of inventiveness and imagination which Telemann shows in these four examples of his creativity never ceases to amaze. He produced a vast amount of music in his sixty years as a composer, peaking as he did in the two years 1705-1706 when in the employ of Count Erdmann II of Promnitz. The Count had been on a ‘grand tour’ and returned enthused by the arts he had seen and heard while in France, whereupon he encouraged his Hofkapellmeister to compose according to the overtures and dance suites of Lully. The formula of this French ‘ouverture’ became fairly predictable, a slow opening in a dotted rhythm, a more contrapuntal quasi-fugal section, and a varied reference back to the rhythm of the opening in the third section. Thereupon the ouverture gathered to itself a collection of following dances to form a suite consisting of such movements as Passepieds, Réjouissances, Polonaises, Airs, Menuets and so on. Telemann wrote an incredible 134 suites which we know of, the bulk of them pre-1721 when he arrived in Hamburg. Not only did he imbue the French and Italian styles, but also the Polish (hence the Polonaises) with its trenchant rhythms and colourful melodies. The suite depicting the various nations, old and new, is full of graceful, wittily charming music, some of it tongue in cheek such as stolidly ponderous Germanic, a poised Swedish sarabande, and a rather swaggering gavotte for the Danes. Each nation is given a ‘before and after’ approach with the old followed immediately by the new, and generally slower followed by faster in terms of tempo.

The two concertos are in turn fascinatingly original (that for recorder, flute and strings) and, for the viola, gloriously mellow sounding. It proved an interesting experiment to juxtapose the two wind instruments in the same concerto, like the suite of nations, the recorder can be seen as the old whilst the more modern transverse flute, the instrument we know today, is the new. The lovely second movement appears accompanied by guitars with all the strings playing pizzicato, the finale fizzes along at breakneck speed. Again to underscore his originality (as Bach did with his sixth Brandenburg Concerto with its absence of violins making the violas the highest of the string instruments) it was an inspired decision to write for the viola, written when he was in Frankfurt sometime between 1712 and 1721. Simple in format, it is a highly tuneful work which paints the tone colours of the viola in all its glory.

The names of the recorder player Frans Brüggen and the harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt are very familiar and these are early recordings some thirty years old, since when they have both spread their wings in the field of authenticity and original instruments. Even though they may not yet have arrived at their musicological conclusions, the playing here is exemplary, particularly Brüggen ‘s extraordinary dexterity and fluency. Ably supported by the various Dutch or German orchestras this is an excellent compilation of music by an under-exposed composer, who, judging by this music, was a lot more significant than perhaps we have thought hitherto.

Christopher Fifield

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