Notes and Editorial Reviews
Wind Concertos: for 2 Recorders,
for Transverse Flute,
for Oboe d’amore,
for 2 Transverse Flutes and Bassoon,
Michael Schneider (rcr,
), cond; Martin Hublow (rcr);
Karl Kaiser (fl);
Marita Schaar (bsn);
Martin Stadler (oba);
La Stagione Frankfurt (period instruments)
cpo 777 400 (60:47)
More prolific by far than either Bach or Vivaldi, Telemann in his day was more highly regarded than Bach, much as Hummel in his day was held in higher esteem than was Beethoven. What happened to bring about the reversal of critical opinion regarding Telemann and Bach? Advancing my own theory, I would speculate that we can largely attribute it to the Romantic era aesthetic that attached surpassing significance to inner struggle, emotional conflict, and perceived spiritual profundity. It wasn’t just Telemann who lost out to Bach or Hummel to Beethoven in this shift of attitudes. Haydn, one of the greatest composers, was eclipsed by Mozart, whose music made a more direct appeal to the Romantic sensibilities of seriousness and suffering.
What Telemann, Haydn, and Hummel all shared was a Classical aesthetic that viewed the creation of music and art as first and foremost a craft to be pursued to the highest possible perfection. Their scores were not personal revelations of their life stories and worldviews, professions of their faith, or journeys of self-discovery. Their music is not devoid of feeling or emotional content, but it is largely devoid of
in the sense that the Romantics liked to attach to the term. One derives great pleasure, even joy, from hearing a Haydn symphony or string quartet, but one does not come away from it shaken, shattered, or changed. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven came to define our musical culture and fire our passions because they were of a Romantic persuasion. When we listen to their music, it says something to us that is more than about its form and craft; it seems to have deeper
, whatever that might be. To those who would argue that Bach was of the Baroque, Mozart of the Classical, and Beethoven on the cusp of the Romantic, I would say that I am not speaking here of the divisions of music history into historical periods. I am speaking of the competing aesthetics of Classicism and Romanticism, of Apollo and Dionysus that occur in every age.
Listening to Telemann, for me, has always been a great joy. I revel in his ingenuity, his always new and surprising sonorities, his quick wit, and the sheer inventiveness of his mind—in short, I revel in his craft. The note author Wolfgang Hirschmann (translated by Susan Marie Praeder) tends to reinforce what I’ve said when he writes, “All of these compositions offer original solutions to the problem of creating concerto music that is melodically sumptuous and smoothly flowing as well as strong in expression and demanding in compositional technique.” It’s not a huge leap to interpret what Hirschmann is saying to mean that Telemann’s core commitment is to perfecting the functional aspects of his art.
How admirably Telemann succeeds may be heard listening to these concertos. Eschewing the Italian three-movement model of fast-slow-fast, he adheres to the German layout of four movements: slow-fast-slow-fast. Also in contrast to the works of his Italian counterparts, who not infrequently fell into the lazy habit of writing the same concerto over and over again, each of Telemann’s examples is strikingly different, not just in its instrumentation, but in its melodic and harmonic content and in the patterning of its passagework. Nonetheless, exquisitely beautiful as some of his slow movements are—listen to the Largo of the A-Major Oboe d’amore Concerto—it would be disingenuous to pretend that Telemann (or German Baroque composers in general) ever mastered the art of the Italian instrumental cantilena that grew out of the melodiousness of the language and Italy’s long vocal tradition. Nothing in these concertos can compare, for example, to the timeless beauty of the Adagio from Albinoni’s D-Minor Oboe Concerto, op. 9/2, written at approximately the same time as the Telemann.
Moreover, as different as Telemann’s style is from that of his Italian contemporaries, it’s equally different from that of his great German contemporary, Bach. Telemann’s movements are short and do not engage in the rigorous contrapuntal treatment and motivic working out typical in Bach’s concertos. In this regard, Telemann is as uncharacteristically German as he is uncharacteristically Italian, a point also made by Hirschmann when he cites Telemann’s French connection. However, Hirschmann does not flesh out what that connection was. Accepting an appointment in 1705 to the court of Count Erdmann II in Zary, Poland, Telemann was exposed to the French style of Lully and Campra, and composed a number of overtures and suites in the French manner during his tenure there. This was followed in 1707 by a visit to Paris, and a second trip in 1737 that produced the so-called “Paris” quartets.
La Stagione Frankfurt has been in the forefront of Germany’s period-instrument movement since its founding in 1988 by current director, Michael Schneider. They have toured Europe extensively and have recorded, mainly for cpo, works by various Baroque and early Classical composers. Telemann, however, is a special interest for Schneider, who was awarded the Telemann Prize in 2000 by the city of Magdeburg for his work on behalf of the composer. This is Schneider’s and La Stagione Frankfurt’s fourth volume of Telemann wind concertos. The ensemble exhibits none of the clipped phrasing, excessive tempos, or other bowing and intonational idiosyncrasies characteristic of some of the earlier and/or more recent extremist groups. This is wonderful playing, hale and hearty, that sounds like a good time was had by all. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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