Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
36 Fantasias, for harpsichord, TWV 33 [168:52]
Andrea Coen (harpsichord)
rec. Teatro La Fortuna, Monte San Vito, Italy, 27 February - 2 March 2011. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94288 [3 CDs: 54:49 + 64:05 + 49:58]
Telemann's 36 Fantasias were printed in 1732-33. The middle twelve (CD 2) are written in a French style, right down to the playing directions, and consist of four short slow-fast-slow-fast movements, whereby the second slow is a compulsory repeat of the first. All the other Fantasias are in the Italian style, with a fast-slow-fast scheme, the final movement again being an obligatory da capo of the first. None of the Italian-style pieces exceeds five minutes in total, and in those few French ones that do it is only by seconds.
Essentially semi-Rococo in character, these keyboard Fantasias make no great demands of the performer or listener, and in terms of sheer invention do not come close to the 12 Telemann wrote for solo violin or especially the twelve for solo flute (see review of a fine, fairly recent Brilliant release) - all published within two or three years of each other incidentally, along with a lost set of 12 for viola da gamba. Within the two types, the Fantasias are fairly self-similar, adhering closely to Telemann's straightfoward models. Only a very determined harpsichordist would sit through nearly three hours in one session, but that is neither Coen's fault nor Telemann's - the 36 are no end-to-end monolith, but rather a series of attractive occasional miniatures to be performed at leisure. Yet even an hour at a time the discerning listener should not succumb to restlessness - within the constraints of the style, Telemann typically provides plenty of variety: working through the keys, alternating major and minor, doing subtle things with texture, embellishing decorously and shifting pace and mood every minute or two, with little dances following thoughtful or capricious passages.
Brilliant do not say, but this is the first commercial recording of all thirty-six Fantasias. Rather surprisingly, there are very few recordings of even selections, which makes this something of a coup for Coen. His harpsichord, a period reproduction, has an almost fluorescently bright sound and a fairly noisy action, but Coen, an experienced, insightful instrumentalist with a profound knowledge of historical performance practice and a sackful of important recordings under his belt, could make Telemann sound special even on a typewriter.
In any case, sound and general technical quality are high. The only noise intrusion, aside from the harpsichord mechanism, is the occasional and very faint sound of traffic. The English-Italian booklet notes, furnished by Coen, are brief but well written, ditto his biography. The three CDs come in a sturdy plastic jewel case.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Telemann sounding special.