Notes and Editorial Reviews
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) was a larger-than-life figure with an almost insatiable appetite for absorbing musical influences and transforming them into works that possessed an undeniable appeal for everyone from the dilettante to the most accomplished of performers. The study and absorption of Europe’s cultural diversity resulted in as varied a catalog of works as produced by anyone else in the Baroque era. As a theoretician, he undertook the codification of the tempered scale. As a student of aesthetics, he led by example, and although he described himself as a scribbler, he refused to duplicate the invention of others.
Telemann was possessed of an immense gift and eagerly applied it to his chosen craft. He was an
astute and savvy composer who continuously strove for his best effort, whether it was for a simple sonata or a grand orchestral and choral canvas like his oratorio Die Tageseiten. He was the consummate workaholic, and his notebooks contained countless comments and analyses regarding musical trends and performances. His catalog is as impressive as his personality, containing in excess of 2,000 completed works in the entire range of the then-popular genre, including chamber music, concertos, orchestral suites, sacred and secular cantatas, oratorios, passion settings, and opera. Some musicologists have claimed that Telemann’s merits were even greater than posterity allows.
Among the hundreds of pages of chamber music Telemann wrote, we find this collection of six works, or quadri that have acquired the nickname “Paris.” It was first hung about their neck some 37 years ago when—while editing them for publication—musicologist Walter Bergmann assumed they had been composed for a visit to Paris. However, there is no direct connection between these half-dozen works and the City of Light. In fact, other than the titles of the two suites and the tempo markings found in them, there is nothing to indicate any French connection. The quartets were published by Telemann in 1730 in Hamburg, and carried the following Italian title: Quadri a violino, flute traversiere, viola da gamba o violoncello e fondamento ripartiti in 2. concerti, 2. balletti, 2. sonatae. When Telemann visited Paris years later and was feted as if he were royalty, he found that a number of his compositions—including these quartets—had been issued by Parisian publishers without his permission. During the eight months he was in the French capital, he issued another six quartets that have since become known as “Paris” Quartets 7–12.
Scored for three solo instruments (flute, violin, and either viola da gamba or violoncello) and continuo, these works almost stand alone in the uniqueness of their structure. What is significant about these quartets is the inclusion of either a viola da gamba or a violoncello as a solo instrument. During the Baroque era, the decided preferences were the solo sonata and the trio sonata. Telemann relies upon three established musical styles here: the Italian concerto and sonata da chiesa and the French suite, but never do the influences greet each other in the same composition. The solo lines are written with the knowledge, confidence, and elegance that one would expect from a master such as Telemann, and they continuously offer many technically rewarding passages—not to mention equally lyrical ones—to each of the protagonists. The discourse between the voices is also quite exceptional, assuring all involved that at some juncture their comments are an essential part of this intimate, lively, and convivial musical conversation.
The Freiburger Barockconsort is harvested from Gottfried von der Goltz’s Freiburger Barockorchester. Indeed, devotees of the period-instrument movement will no doubt recognize the names of violinist Petra Müllejans and flutist Karl Kaiser. As acknowledged authorities on their respective instruments, they and the other members of this group are held in high regard by their colleagues and musical auditors alike by virtue of their enlightened yet unstudied approach to music of the Baroque. These quartets are musical entertainment pure and simple, and are approached as such by Müllejans and her colleagues. The tempos are lively but never rushed, so the melodies fall naturally on the ear; the precision is exceptional, and the inter-ensemble balances are managed with great care. There is also a nice aura—no doubt enhanced by the singular acoustical properties of the venue, Teldex Studio, Berlin—surrounding but never enveloping the instruments. No emotional depths are sought, but neither are any aspects glossed over.
These exceptional offerings belong on the shelf of every Baroque music lover, as they unquestionably transcend the content of the printed page.
-- Michael Carter, FANFARE [7/2003]
Works on This Recording
Quartets (6) for Flute, Violin, Viola da Gamba and Basso Continuo, Book 1 "Paris Quartets" by Georg Philipp Telemann
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra Consort
Written: by 1730; Hamburg, Germany
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