Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760)
Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in F (GWV 323) [09:29)
Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758)
Sonata for two violins, viola and bc in d minor (FWV N,d3) [09:35]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto for harpsichord, two recorders, strings and bc in F (BWV 1057) [15:20]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Quartet for recorder, violin, viola and bc in g minor (TWV 43,g4) [07:49]
Johann Friedrich FASCH
Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in F (FWV L,F6) [07:53]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Concerto for recorder, strings and bc C (TWV 51,C1) [16:09]
Stefan Temmingh (recorder), Sebastian Wienand (harpsichord)
Capricornus Consort Basel
rec. 2020, St German Church, Seewen, Switzerland
Reviewed as a stereo 16/44 download with pdf booklet from Outhere
ACCENT ACC24375 [66:14]
Every Bach lover who sees the year 1723 and the name of the town mentioned in the title of this disc, will immediately know what they refer to. In 1723, the town council of Leipzig had to decide who was to be appointed Thomaskantor, as successor to Johann Kuhnau, who had passed away the year before. We know how the deliberations went and what the final outcome was. This crucial year in music history is used by Stefan Temmingh and his colleagues as a steppingstone for a programme of music by the four main composers who were taken into consideration. It is not more than a steppingstone indeed, because the skills of the candidates in the field of instrumental music did play no role at all in the considerations. The main task of the Thomaskantor was to write the music for the services in the Thomaskirche and the Neukirche, and to teach Latin at the Thomasschule.
The key figure in the programme is Georg Philipp Telemann, not only because he was the first candidate who was offered the post, but also because he was considered the main composer in Germany and because he knew the other three personally. He was close friends with Christoph Graupner: both had studied in Leipzig, and Graupner was Kapellmeister at the court in Darmstadt, when Telemann worked in Frankfurt am Main. Graupner copied many compositions by Telemann, and the latter sometimes borrowed members of the Darmstadt chapel when he needed additional musicians for specific occasions. Telemann also knew Bach, and was the godfather of Bach's second son Carl Philipp Emanuel. Telemann and Fasch were also befriended; in 1733 Telemann performed a cycle of cantatas by Fasch in Hamburg.
The recorder takes central place in the programme. During the first half of the 18th century it was gradually overshadowed by the transverse flute, but it was still popular among amateurs. This explains the sizeable number of sonatas and other chamber music for recorder or with recorder parts. We find many of them in Telemann's oeuvre who was always particularly keen to provide the growing number of amateurs with good music. The number of solo concertos is much smaller, as such works were often intended for larger establishments, such as collegia musica and court orchestras, which consisted mainly of professionals. The irony in the programme of this disc is that Bach is the only one who did not write any concerto for the recorder (nor any sonata, for that matter). The recorder does play a role in his cantatas and in some of his instrumental music, such as the Brandenburg Concertos. The fourth of these was later arranged into a concerto for harpsichord, in which two recorders join the strings. Sebastian Wienand adds quite a lot of ornamentation to the lines that Bach has written, which is - as many will know - a matter of debate among Bach scholars and performers.
Graupner had originally been appointed in Darmstadt with the task of composing operas. However, his employer soon realised that the performance of operas at his court was beyond his financial resources, and as a result Graupner had to confine himself to the composition of sacred music and instrumental works. His oeuvre includes concertos for various instruments, but only one concerto for recorder. It seems to follow the Vivaldian model, but in fact it is a piece that - as so many of Graupner's works - is hardly comparable with any other music of his time. 'Commonplaces' - in the neutral sense of the word - as we find them in many compositions of the baroque era seem to be largely absent in his oeuvre. Notable in this concerto is the pizzicato accompaniment of the strings in the middle movement, an andante.
The Concerto in F by Fasch was only recognized as a piece of his pen this century. It is part of the collection of Count Aloys Thomas Rainund Harrach, preserved in the New York Public Library. For some time Harrach was Viceroy of Naples, and this explains the presence of many pieces by Neapolitan composers in his collection. He seems to have had a special interest in the recorder. It is not known whether he played the recorder himself or rather had a member in his household who mastered it. It must have been a highly skilled player as this concerto is technically very demanding. One also wonders who at the court in Zerbst, where Fasch worked for most of his life as Kapellmeister, may have been able to play it. It has been suggested that this concerto may have been written for a visiting virtuoso, and that seems a plausible possibility.
In Telemann's oeuvre the recorder takes a prominent place. That has much to do with its popularity among amateurs, but also his personal preference. Telemann mastered most of the instruments in vogue in his time, but the recorder seems to have been one of his favourite instruments. It is not entirely clear when he may have written the Concerto in C. Wolfgang Hirschmann (Telemann, Wind Concertos Vol. 2; CPO, 2008) suggests that it dates from around 1725 or a little later, when Telemann worked in Hamburg. Domen Marincic, in his liner-notes to the present recording, states that it "probably dates from the early 1720s [when Telemann worked in Frankfurt] and may have been written for the Darmstadt musician Johann Michael Böhm". Whatever is the case, it is again a technically demanding piece that is certainly not intended for amateurs, but rather for a professional player. The highest registers of the instrument are explored, and this concerto is also one of the longest in Telemann's oeuvre, and that goes in particular for the closing menuet, which takes more than five minutes.
The concertos are separated by two pieces of chamber music. Telemann was highly admired for his quartets; they were considered models of their kind by Johann Joachim Quantz. Many such pieces - under various titles: quartet, sonata, concerto - have been preserved and they are scored for different combinations of instruments. The Quartet in g minor is relatively 'conventional' in its scoring for recorder, violin, viola and basso continuo. It was part of the repertoire of the Dresden court chapel and may have been written around 1710. Notable is that it is in three movements, like a solo concerto of Vivaldian model, and in particular the last movement shows the traces of a solo concerto, as the recorder at first plays a solo part with the strings being reduced to ripieno, whereas later the roles are reversed.
The Sonata in d minor by Fasch is an example of a ripieno piece, a kind of quartet in which the three string parts are treated on equal footing. Such pieces are dominated by counterpoint, and that is the case here as well. We also find such pieces among the early works of Telemann, but Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-1756) also composed a piece of this kind. This sonata is in four movements, following the Corellian model, as was common practice.
All the pieces performed here are more or less known - that is to say: they are available in other recordings. That does not diminish the value of these performances, as they are very good. Stefan Temmingh is one of the finest recorder players of our time, and he shows that here once again. Sometimes he tends to exaggerate, for instance in his choice of tempi, and some tempi here are very fast. However, they don't go at the cost of a clear articulation. In the last movement of Telemann's quartet he sometimes slows down, which creates additional tension, and that is a good thing, but he is not very consistent in this department. As I already noted, Sebastian Wienand adds quite some ornamentation in the solo part of Bach's concerto. I am not in favour of that, and I personally would prefer a more modest approach.
On balance, though, this is a very fine disc, which I have very much enjoyed, thanks to the performers, but in the first place to the composers, who have written such compelling and entertaining music.
Johan van Veen
Previous review: Dominy Clements