Barbaric Beauty - Telemann and 18th Century Dance Manuscripts
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Perpetuum mobile
Concerto polonois in G: dolce
Polonaise in D
anon
Dance 90
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Polonesie
anon
Pode dworem
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Polonesie
anon
Melodiarum
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Concerto polonois in B flat: largo
anon
Melodiurium G 11
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Concerto polonois in G: allegro [14:52]
Les Janissaires
anon
Nota kurucz I, II
Zela trovke [6:11]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Mourky
anon
Hout
Murky
Overgaan van Doornik
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Les Moscovites
anon
Dance 298
Hungaricus 22 [10:21]
Dance 322
Dopschensis
Adagio
Ach ma myla co myslis
Dance 325
Melodiarum B-14
Hungaricus [11:44]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Hanaquoise
anon
Dalat mu dala
Dobras bila kdy te
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Hanac I, II & III [7:15]
anon
Two dances
En kitzvo
Two dances [11:35]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Marche
anon
Verbung per il violino
Ungarici No. 2, 3 & 5
Hungarice
Hungaricus 34 [5:47]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Mezzetin en turc
anon
Dance 277
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Les Turcs [9:02]
Milos Valent (violin, voice), Holland Baroque Society
rec. March 2011, Westvest, Schiedam, Netherlands. DDD
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS SA 31911 [77:32]

Books on music history usually concentrate on the development of what we call 'art music' in Western Europe. The traditional or 'folk' music remains under the radar. That is understandable. Traditional music was usually not written down; it is possible that many musicians couldn't read or write. Their repertoire was handed down orally and through a process of listening and imitation. This is also the reason traditional music has no fixed form: it could differ from one generation to the next, and from one region to another. Moreover, improvisation was an organic part of performances of traditional music. Several manuscripts from the 18th century with songs and dances have been preserved, but even these can only give a rudimentary idea of how the music actually sounded.

The study of such manuscripts and of traditional music in general is important, though. This is especially because this kind of music has found its way into the works of 'classical' composers. The English virginalists used popular songs for variations, and so did the Italians. In the first half of the 18th century London audiences were intrigued by Scottish and Irish folksongs. Composers responded by integrating them into their own compositions. At about the same time Georg Philipp Telemann also became acquainted with traditional music. He is one of the few composers who was very outspoken about this fascination. In 1704 he became Kapellmeister in Sorau (today: Zary in Poland). "When the court resided for six months in Plesse and Krakow I became acquainted with both Polish music and the music of the Hanaks. This in all its barbaric beauty. (...) One can hardly imagine the brilliant ideas the wind players and violinists brought forth during the improvisations at moments when the dancers were allowed to rest". He was clearly strongly impressed by what he heard: "If you were to write down all that was played there, after a week you would have enough ideas for the rest of your life. If you know to turn it to your own advantage, there is so much good to be had from this music".

Telemann obviously knew very well how to turn this traditional music to capitalise on this. It turns up regularly in his own compositions, for instance in various orchestral suites. In modern performances these influences are not always clearly traceable. It is the merit of this disc that it approaches these elements in Telemann's compositions from the angle of traditional music. As a result the performance of some movements from two concertos which are known as concerto polonois is quite different from what we mostly hear. Telemann himself wrote a number of dances which are collected in a manuscript known as Danse d'Polonie. It is quite possible that this is the result of what he had heard. In the programme recorded by the Holland Baroque Society several manuscripts with traditional music are used. The result is a mixture of traditional and 'art' music which shows that the line between the two is fluid.

Programmes like this can easily go terribly wrong. That is the case when musicians who have enjoyed a classical education try to perform traditional music without having a real feeling for it. On the other hand, if musicians from the world of 'folk' music are going to play 'art' music the result is often just as disastrous. What we have here is a happy marriage of traditional and 'art' music, mainly thanks to Milos Valent who is rooted in both. As a violinist he plays in many early music ensembles: Tragicomedia, Teatro Lirico, Concerto Copenhagen and the Netherlands Bach Society. He also has a vast experience in playing folk music. He seems to be a very inspiring musician as he is able to pass on his knowledge and enthusiasm to the members of the Holland Baroque Society.

This ensemble chooses not to have a conductor and regularly work with guest directors. Among them have been the likes of Alexis Kossenko, Matthew Halls, Sergio Azzolini and Dorothee Oberlinger. A precondition is a spirit of openness towards the ideas of those artists. The performance of traditional music is to some extent speculative, because there are no treatises on performance practice. Whether we hear the dances from the various manuscripts as they were played at the time is impossible to say. The programme as a whole makes a very convincing impression and the folk music sounds authentic.

The booklet includes informative liner-notes by Judith Steenbrink. The sources of the pieces of folk music are given. However, I would have liked more detail, including when and where they were assembled and the location of the performing materials. The programme includes movements from larger compositions by Telemann, but they are not identified and there are no catalogue numbers.

In many ways this disc is an ear-opener. Never before I have been so much aware of the connection between the 'classical' and the 'traditional'. Itís definitely a subject which needs to be more thoroughly explored. This disc is an excellent contribution.

Johan van Veen
http://www.musica-dei-donum.org
https://twitter.com/johanvanveen

In many ways an ear-opener.