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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767)
Complete Violin Concertos: Vol. 5
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in G (TWV 51,G5) [7:19]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in B flat (TWV 51,B2) [7;11]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in F (TWV 51,F3) [7:53]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A (TWV 51,A3) [9:48]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in f sharp minor (TWV 51,fis1) [8:56]
Concerto for 2 violins, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 52,e4)* [9:17]
Concerto for 4 violins, strings and bc in A (TWV 54,A1) [7:45]
Elizabeth Wallfisch, Evan Few* (violin)
The Wallfisch Band/Elizabeth Wallfisch
rec. April 2010, church of La Baleine, Normandy, France. DDD
CPO 777 550-2 [58:24]

Telemann didn't rank his solo concertos among the most important part of his oeuvre. It didn't prevent him from writing a considerable number of them. Almost 60 concertos with one solo instrument from his pen are known. Add to that almost 30 double concertos and about the same number of concertos with three and four solo instruments and one gets a good impression of his great contribution to this genre. He was also one of the first composers in Germany to write solo concertos.
 
This disc is the fifth in a series of recordings of the complete output with solo parts for one or several violins. In these seven pieces Telemann follows the four-movement structure of the Italian sonata da camera rather than the Vivaldian three-movement model. That doesn't mean that there is no influence of the Italian solo concerto here. In several concertos Telemann mixes Corellian sonata texture with ritornello as we find it in, for instance, Vivaldi's concertos. In his liner-notes Wolfgang Hirschmann observes that for instance in the Concerto in A (TWV 51,A3) "Corelli and Vivaldi meet within the narrowest space".
 
Telemann was very critical of the concertos which were written in his time. He stated that he had "come across many difficulties and crooked leaps but little harmony and even worse melody". This reveals his artistic credo: no virtuosity for its own sake, but rather naturalness, interesting harmony and good melody. Those elements are certainly present in the concertos recorded here. One of the features of Telemann's style is the variety with which he treats the material. That has already been noted in regard to the structure of the concertos. The connection between solo and tutti is also varied: sometimes a movement begins with a tutti passage, in others the solo violin starts the proceedings.
 
It is a token of Telemann's distaste for too much virtuosity that he seldom uses double-stopping in his violin compositions. It is therefore notable that two concertos include passages with double-stopping: the closing movements of the Concerto in F and the Concerto in f sharp minor. The latter is a remarkable piece anyway, especially because of the key of F sharp minor which is an infrequent visitor to baroque instrumental music. The liner-notes quote Johann Mattheson who characterized this key as "misanthropic". Because of the harmony, the requirements of the violin part and the connection between solo and tutti this is a rather unusual piece in Telemann's oeuvre.
 
The disc ends with two concertos for two and four violins respectively. The latter is only formally a concerto for four violins; the third and fourth violins’ solo roles are so limited that, as Hirschmann states, this is in fact a double concerto. The andante which opens the Concerto in e minor contains some strong harmonic tension, especially between the two solo violins. The same goes for the affettuoso which opens the Concerto in A (TWV 54,A1).
 
The expressive aspects of Telemann's concertos mostly come off rather well in these performances. The affettuoso I just mentioned is an example where I could imagine a more gestural performance which would bring out the expressive essence with more intensity. As much as I appreciate the interpretations by Elizabeth Wallfisch, I tend to think that a German ensemble like the Freiburger Barockorchester would delve more deeply into the emotional aspects. The Concerto in f sharp minor is given an impressive performance, though.
 
All in all, there is every reason to be happy with this project which - just as the series with wind concertos - shows that Telemann was indeed a creative genius.
 
Johan van Veen
http://www.musica-dei-donum.org
https://twitter.com/johanvanveen
 

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