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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
La Querelleuse
Overture in G 'La Querelleuse' (TWV 55,G8) (transposed to B flat) [12:11]
Fantasia in G (TWV 40,12) (transposed to B flat) [4:19]
Trio sonata in g minor (TWV 42,g9) [6:57]
Fantasia in b minor (TWV 40,4) (transposed to c minor) [4:08]
Trio sonata in a minor (TWV 42,a1) [9:33]
Die Zufriedenheit, cantata (TWV 20,29) [8:50]
Fantasia in a minor (TWV 40,25) [4:59]
Trio sonata in E (TWV 42,E4) [7:08]
Concerto à 4 in a minor (TWV 43,a3) [10:35]
Kristen Witmer (soprano), Robert de Bree (oboe), Alon Portal (double bass), The Counterpoints
rec. 2019, Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Text included, no translation
ET'CETERA KTC1652 [68:39]

In 2011 recorder player Thomas Triesschijn and harpsichordist Aljosja Mietus started to perform as a duo. Four years later, they looked for possibilities to extend their repertoire to music for larger scorings. This resulted in the founding of the ensemble The Counterpoints, in which they are joined by the violinist Matthea de Muynck and the cellist Petr Hamouz. For specific projects the ensemble can be extended by additional musicians. That is also the case here, as the header shows.

The Counterpoints is not the first ensemble to devote its debut disc to Telemann. For a long time he was considered the less sophisticated contemporary of the giants Bach and Handel. Times have changed: today his music is frequently performed and recorded, as it is ackowledged that he was quite a brilliant composer. In the booklet, the members of The Counterpoints state: "Perhaps no other baroque composer wrote in such a natural and idiomatic way for each instrument; the pleasures of his music are therefore not enjoyed by listener alone, for it is also a joy to play". They add: "His music is filled with the unexpected, which during rehearsals and concerts invites playful and imaginative music making time and time again".

This disc bears witness to that. It is a nice mixture of pieces of different character and scoring, which show the versatility and creativity of Telemann, which he kept alive until the very end of his long life. He saw the gradual shift from the traditional baroque style, which was dominated by counterpoint, to the galant idiom, which emphasized the importance of melody. In his latest years, the emergence of the early classical style can already be noticed. Let's not forget that Haydn was already 35 years of age, when Telemann died.

Telemann was an advocate of the goût réuni, the mixture of elements of the French and Italian styles with Germany's own tradition. In addition, he had an open ear for the virtues of folk music, especially from Poland and Moravia, and he liked to include them in his compositions. Another interesting side of his oeuvre is his writing for instruments without basso continuo. That was rather uncommon in his time, but he wrote 36 fantasias for such a scoring: twelve each for transverse flute, violin and viola da gamba. He was also the main contributor to the genre of the quartet, which was generally considered the most sophisticated form of chamber music.

Telemann had a special liking for the French style. This explains why he composed a large number of orchestral suites, generally called ouvertures, for various combinations of instruments. The standard scoring was for two oboes, bassoon, strings and basso continuo. This disc opens with the Overture in G, which is scored for strings and basso continuo alone. It is one of several such pieces which have a title. In this case it is La Querelleuse, which means 'the quarrelsome lady', and in the liner-notes this is connected to Telemann's second wife, who liked to spend too much money and had an affair to boot. Obviously, whether Telemann had her in mind while writing this work, is speculation. In some such overtures, several movements have a title, indicating that they are meant as character pieces. Here, only the third movement has a title: Les Combattants, which has to be translated here as "the bantams". This suite is performed as a piece of chamber music by recorder, violin and basso continuo, in a transpostion to B flat.

The trio sonata was the most common form of chamber music in the baroque era. Trio sonatas were intended for amateurs, and because of that they were technically not too demanding. One of the features of Telemann's trio sonatas is that they are often scored for uncommon combinations of instruments or include elements which are anything but conventional. In the case of the Trio sonata in g minor that goes for the last movement, an allegro which includes elements of folk music. The fact that trio sonatas were intended for domestic entertainment, did not withhold Telemann from including movements of a strongly expressive nature. The grave from the Trio sonata in a minor is a fine example. And in the Trio in E from the collection Essecizii Musici the third movement, andante, is dominated by chromatically descending figures.

The Concerto à 4 in a minor is an example of a quartet. It is a kind of hybrid between the sonata and the Italian-style concerto. The concertante element manifests itself in the last movement, which includes solos for recorder and oboe and a remarkably virtuosic solo episode for the violin.

Whereas Telemann's instrumental music was discovered in the early stages of historical performance practice, the appreciation of his vocal music is of a much later date. This explains why a large part of his output in this department still waits to be discovered. Among his lesser-known vocal works are the two sets of so-called 'Moral Cantatas'. Such cantatas are typical products of the Enlightenment. Part of this movement was the moral education of people, and these cantatas include the same kind of messages as the many periodicals which were published at that time. This cantata is about contentment, which was the subject of several cantatas of the time, either sacred or secular, such as Bach's cantatas Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Glücke (BWV 84) and Von der Vergnügsamkeit (BWV 204). At the time, contentment was a humility, a relaxed satisfaction with what life had to offer. Die Zufriedenheit is for soprano, transverse flute or violin and basso continuo. Here it has been transposed upward in order to perform the melody part on the alto recorder. I don't see the need: the ensemble includes a violin, and from that angle there is no reason to turn to the recorder.

Lastly, three fantasias. Telemann's fantasias for the transverse flute are often played at the recorder. In a number of cases, that requires a transposition to a different key. Here the Fantasia No. 11, originally in G major, has been transposed to B flat major. In comparison to these fantasias, those for the violin are far lesser known, probably because violinists have a larger repertoire to choose from than recorder players. Even so, it is regrettable, and the Fantasia No. 12 is an excellent example of what this set of fantasias has to offer. One of the fantasias for flute is played here at the cello. That is the first time I have heard one of them in this form. Considering that Telemann was open to new developments, it is remarkable that the cello takes such a minor role in his oeuvre. He never wrote a solo concerto for the cello, and just one solo sonata. The Fantasia No. 3 works remarkably well on this instrument.

That is also due to the fine playing by Petr Hamouz, who makes a little story out of it. And that is an indication of the style of playing of this ensemble. It is speechlike, dynamically differentiated, and well articulated. Triesschijn produces a beautiful tone, and adds nice ornamentation. Matthea de Muynck impresses in her solos, both in the Fantasia and in the Concerto. Kristen Widmer's performance of the cantata is spot-on.

Telemann's music is frequently performed these days, but The Counterpoints have managed to find their own approach to his oeuvre and obviously feel like a fish in water. I hope to hear more from them in the years to come. If you like Telemann, you will like this disc very much.

Johan van Veen

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