Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Concertos: in C,
; in g,
; in G,
; in a,
; in B?,
; in A,
Elizabeth Wallfisch (vn), dir; L’Orfeo Barockorchester (period
cpo 777089 (64:21)
This is the second of what promises to be a three-CD set including all Telemann’s violin concertos, a body of works (21 in all, according to the revised
) rather less daunting in number than is the case with many areas of Telemann’s output. Equally, the concertos themselves are not especially daunting to a performer, since they adhere to the composer’s own philosophy and his professed dislike of ostentatious virtuosity. Those interested will find Robert Maxham’s review of the earlier volume in
28:1; I reviewed it elsewhere, finding the performances of Elizabeth Wallfisch and the L’Orfeo players well nigh ideal.
As with the first disc, the remarkable thing is the sheer variety Telemann introduced into concerto form. That range includes his interest in the Corellian type of concerto, as is the case with the B-Minor Concerto, with its four brief movements, although Telemann springs a surprise in the last of these by reverting to a lively dance in the typical Polish style he made very much his own. The Concerto in C, on the other hand, is a thoroughly modern Italian concerto that also includes elements of the sinfonia. It was in fact composed as the overture to the opera
Der neumodische Leibhaber Damon
(Hamburg, 1724), the first of its three movements having a Vivaldian drive and energy, the second a transitory passage, while the third is an elegant minuet in which the soloist is featured only in two episodes. After opening with an innocent, song-like Andante, the G-Major Concerto maintains a bucolic dance spirit throughout, the exception being the third of its four movements, a hauntingly lovely siciliana that hovers enigmatically between major and minor modes.
The really outstanding concerto here is TWV 51:B1 in B?, a work written for the Dresden concertmaster Johann Georg Pisendel, while the most original is the A-Major, TWV 51:A4. The former, another four-movement work, was for long known in an incomplete state, part of the MS of the final movement being missing. Its opening movement displays Telemann’s contrapuntal mastery and adaptation of ritornello form to a degree of formal sophistication rarely found in contemporary Italian concertos, with fragments of the ritornello worked into exchanges with the solo part. At the heart of the concerto is an exquisite Andante in which the soloist’s aria-like cantilena is supported by a gently throbbing accompaniment. The A Major is one of the more familiar of Telemann’s violin concertos, a descriptive work sometimes known as “Die Relinge,” a kind of tree frog. In the opening movement, the soloist is called on to imitate the call of the creatures with tremolandos close to the instrument’s bridge, while the central Largo is a beautiful evocation of drowsy, soft song in the stillness of a warm summer’s evening. A gracious Minuet finale (with a string trio central episode) returns to the formal world of man.
The performances again seem to me near ideal, with tempos that simply sound unerringly right, and the spirit of the music captured with impeccably idiomatic style. These may for the most part not be flashy concertos, but they demand a considerable level of technical skill and agility from their performer, in addition to an ability to draw pure, unmannered cantabile lines. On both counts it would be difficult to fault the experienced Wallfisch, who is again admirably supported by the L’Orfeo Barockorchester, one of the most improved ensembles in the field. Given that when complete this will stand alone as a complete set of the violin concertos, alternative versions are not really relevant. In any event, several of the concertos are otherwise unavailable, making this brightly engineered disc and its predecessor obligatory for all Telemann collectors; it also makes for a highly desirable acquisition by anyone else.
FANFARE: Brian Robins
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