Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Scherzando: Six Overtures (1745)
Overture I in G minor, TWV 32:5 [10:29]
Overture II in A major, TWV 32:6 [10:34]
Overture III in F major, TWV 32:7 [10:36]
Overture IV in E minor, TWV 32:8 [10:29]
Overture V in E-flat major, TWV 32:9 [11:05]
Overture VI in A minor, TWV 32:10 [10:48]
Anke Dennert (harpsichord)
rec. 4-6 May 2015, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany GENUIN CLASSICS GEN16411 [64:09]
This disc offers a set of six neglected harpsichord suites by the mature Telemann. Each opens with a French overture, followed by a slow movement — except for the fluent middle movement of Overture IV — and a fast conclusion. Thus they are shorter than most baroque suites and carry an interesting tension. The French overtures resound with stately dotted rhythms and intense fugal passages, providing a grandeur that is in contrast to the latter movements. These are often in Polish, or Italian style, making these attractive pieces something of a European travelogue. The title of the disc is “Scherzando,” taken from Telemann’s names for five of the middle movements. It suggests geniality and playfulness, both of which these performances display generously. There is another recording of the complete set, by Roberto Loreggian on Brilliant Classics (94337), which I have not heard. It would have to be excellent, indeed, to surpass the work of Anke Dennert.
Dennert, a professor in Hamburg, is a fine musician. These pieces are challenging in their diversity, from virtuoso display to quiet cantabile moments. Dennert is technically assured, provides incisive rhythms and makes sound interpretive choices. She plays as an effective advocate for this unrecognized music. I especially enjoyed the excitement she brings to the fugal passages in Overture II, the lovely pastorello in Overture IV, and the way she makes the final allegro dance in Overture III.
This may be Dennert’s first solo recording but she may be heard in other lively recordings of music more obscure than this. She is a member of Toute Suites, a double-reed based ensemble which explores trio sonatas by Sebastian Bodinus, Johann Schiefferdecker and Jean Michel Muller in a Genuin series. In her notes to this recording, she thanks Telemann for providing gallant and cheerful music, and she thanks Christian Zell, who made the harpsichord in Hamburg in 1729. This is one of only three instruments by Zell to survive, and it is a beauty, with a rich, singing sound which Dennert exploits well.
There is some deserved Hamburg pride about this recording: Telemann, Zell and Dennert are all Hamburg musicians but this should not be treated as a project of local interest. Anyone who enjoys harpsichord music of the high baroque should find both pleasure and interest in this recording. Why are these engaging compositions not better known? Telemann’s Nuremburg publisher brought out these works as no. 17 in a series which included Bach’s Goldberg Variations as no. 16. Telemann’s curiosity takes him in very different directions than Bach’s great work, but these suites can stand plausibly alongside more frequently performed pieces, such as Handel’s harpsichord suites.