Telemann: Baroque Composer, Renaissance Man

United StatesUnited States Telemann: Juilliard Baroque, Sandra Miller (flute), Monica Huggett (violin), Dominic Teresi (bassoon), Sarah Cunningham (viola da gamba), Avi Stein (harpsichord), Paul Hall, Juilliard School, New York, 2.11.2015 (SSM)


Quartet in E Minor, TWV 43:e3 from Six Quatuors ou Trios
Fantasia No. 6 for solo violin in E Minor, TWV 40:19 from Fantasias
Trio No. 2 for viola da gamba, harpsichord and basso continuo in G Major,
TWV 42:G6 from Essercizii musici
Concerto Primo in G Major, TWV 43:G1 from Quadri
Sonata for violin, bassoon and basso continuo in F Major, TWV 42:F80
Fantasia No. 10 for solo traverso in F-sharp Minor, TWV 40:11
Concerto for flute, gamba and bassoon in B Minor, TWV 43:h3
Quartet in A Minor, TWV 43:a1 from Six Quatuors ou Trios

It’s difficult to write about Telemann without mentioning his prodigious output: 45 Passions and over 1,700 cantatas and, in the secular realm, some 50 operas, more than 600 orchestral suites and hundreds of works for various chamber music combinations. Bach by comparison wrote a mere 300 cantatas, five Passions, no operas and four orchestral suites. To be fair, Telemann was born four years before Bach, and lived and continued to write music for another 17 years after Bach’s death. He was also a novelist, poet and entrepreneur who exercised total control over all aspects of  publishing his scores, including engraving. He wrote three autobiographies and was an avid collector of exotic plants. He claimed to be an autodidact and taught himself to play the flute, oboe, viola da gamba, double bass, trombone and keyboard. Well-traveled, he incorporated into his works the influences of French and Italian music as well as ethnic music from Poland, Spain and other countries.

Although Telemann’s music has certainly not been neglected, there is still a tremendous amount to be prepared for performance. The more we hear, the more we realize how good his music really is. Several CD labels are committed to recording the voluminous genres of instrumental and vocal music he produced. One of them, the German company cpo, has been regularly releasing his violin concerti, wind concerti and cantatas. They have a long way to go.

Telemann’s music is distinctive and well-constructed. He was no Vivaldi, churning out music as fast as his pen could write and using the same formulas over and over. The most interesting pieces on this concert’s program were those for unaccompanied flute and unaccompanied violin, both of which belong to sets of 12 Fantasias each. It might have been interesting if one from the set of 36 Fantasias for keyboard had also been selected: the program would then have included one piece from each solo instrument set. While none of the violin Fantasias compare to Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas for violin, they are all, at a minimum, charming. Usually the bassoon is there just to support the basso continuo, so it was good to see and hear the bassoon up front in one of the sonatas and in one of the concerti. This was especially the case because it was played so well by Dominic Teresi. Sarah Cunningham’s da gamba playing in the Trio in G was also most enjoyable, bringing to mind the da gamba sonatas of Telemann’s godson, C. P. E. Bach.

The pieces played here succeeded in demonstrating  a broad cross section of the chamber music Telemann wrote. The instrumentalists, all faculty members of the Historical Performance program, excelled in every piece.

Stan Metzger




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