Commitment and Passion from Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin at Wigmore Hall

05/05/2019

Handel and Telemann: Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin / Georg Kallweit (leader). Wigmore Hall, London, 4.5.2019. (AK)

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (c) Uwe Arens

Handel – Concerto Grosso in F Op.3 No.4 HWV315 Concerto Grosso in D minor Op.3 No.5 HWV316; Concerto Grosso in B flat Op.3 No.2 HWV313; Concerto Grosso in D Op.3 No.6 HWV317; Concerto Grosso in G Op.3 No.3 HWV314; Concerto Grosso in B flat Op. 3 No. 1 HWV312

Telemann – Sonata No.4 in D minor TWV40:121 (II. Piacevole non largo); Sonata No.2 in G minor TWV40:119 (I. Presto); Sonata No.1 in G TWV40:118 (II. Adagio); Sonata No.6 in A minor TWV40:123 (II. Soave)

The most important attributes of this concert were the professionalism and beauty provided by the ensemble of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin led by Georg Kallweit. The integrity (and the enjoyment!) of the audience was also notable. However, for the enquiring mind, both the programme as well as some of the information in the programme booklet prompted questions.

The apparent proposition was to let us hear all six of Handel’s Op.3 Concerto grossi (composed by 1734) in the company of Telemann’s canonic sonatas (composed by 1738).

However, while Handel was presented with full length, Telemann was represented by four single movements inserted between performances of Handel’s concerti. Visually (and arguably also aurally) the plan was well balanced: Handel-Telemann-Handel-Telemann-Handel-Interval-Handel-Telemann-Handel-Telemann-Handel. However, the individual Telemann movements taken from Sonatas IV, II, I, and VI respectively seemed a somewhat unfair representation of Telemann (although, initially, Telemann composed eighteen individual pieces which he then arranged into six three-movement sonatas). On the credit side, although not indicated in the programme notes, the Telemann movements seem to have been chosen to provide tonal coherence of keys in the sequence.

Depending on which publication one looks at, the instruments used for the Telemann canons could be two flutes or two violins (critical edition by Günter Hausswald, Bärenreiter, 1953) or, as Lindsey Kemp writes in his programme notes, two melody instruments with flutes, violins and bass viols suggested on the title page of the first publication. The Akademie opted for the combination of two violins (twice), cello and bassoon as well as flute (or recorder?) and violin for the performances of the four selected movements. Each of these four performances was fully committed and faultless.

The six Handel concerti were not performed in the order of their numbers but as follows: Nos. 4 (in F), 5 (in D minor), 2 (in B♭), 6 (in D), 3 (in G) and 1 (in B♭). As seen, the sequence of keys maintained coherence. But why did the programme notes specify the keys of all Handel concerti but none of the selected Telemann pieces?

All six of the Handel concerti were performed with utmost commitment and passion. This must have been difficult on the somewhat crowded Wigmore Hall stage, especially for the upper string players standing (with very little room between them) throughout the evening. Instrumentation did not always follow what various publications indicate (and Lindsay Kemp mentions in his programme notes). For instance, in the No.2 concerto the solo for double celli was played by a bassoon and a cello, and in the No.1 concerto ‘the new sound element of a pair of bassoons’ was missing. The Akademie used only one cello and one bassoon at this concert. One can only guess their reason but, at any event, no way could they have fitted two cellos and two bassoons on the stage.

I am surprised that the programme notes specified a double bass player among the performers and that they stated that ‘Double bass supplied and tuned by Tim Amherst’. I saw and heard no double bass; I saw and heard a five-stringed fretted violone.

Agnes Kory

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