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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
‘Trio Sonatas’

Quartet for 2 violins, bassoon and bc in e minor (TWV 43:e3) [09:33]
Triosonata no 1 in G (TWV 42:G3) [07:55]
Triosonata no 2 in c minor (TWV 42:c1) [06:54]
Triosonata no 3 in A (TWV 42:A2) [07:35]
Sonata for violin, bassoon and bc in B flat (TWV 42:B5) [06:17]
Triosonata no 4 in d minor (TWV 42:d2) [06:26]
Triosonata no 5 e minor (TWV 42:e1) [08:04]
Triosonata no 6 in D (TWV 42:D4) [07:54]
Sonata for violin, bassoon and bc in F (TWV 42:F1) [07:11]
Parnassi musici (on period instruments):
Margaret MacDuffie, Matthias Fischer (violin), Stephan Schrader (cello), Sergio Azzolini (bassoon), Martin Lutz (harpsichord, organ)
Recorded January, February 2002 at the Studio of the Südwestrundfunk Karlsruhe (Germany) DDD
CPO 999 934-2 [68:37]


Georg Philipp Telemann was one of Germany’s most productive composers, especially in the field of chamber music. A large number of collections were published during his lifetime, in different forms, for all kinds of instruments or combinations of instruments.

"Like all composers in the 18th century, Telemann was first and foremost a practical musician who not only had command of the secrets of the composer’s trade but also knew how to play all the musical instruments of his day. The intimate knowledge – and feel for – those musical instruments and their natural characteristics that this afforded him gave rise to the joyful air of wholesome, heart-warming music making that radiates in such generous measure from his music." With those words of the Czech conductor Milan Munclinger I wholeheartedly agree having listened to quite a lot of Telemann’s chamber music over the years.

Often he is portrayed as merely a clever businessman. He certainly was: he didn’t feel it necessary to promote the publication of the 6 Trio sonatas recorded here, since he could be sure copies would circulate in many regions of Germany. And he was right: both members of court orchestras as well as accomplished amateur musicians were eager to buy and play these trio sonatas.

But it would be unfair to see him only in this light. In the preface to his collection ‘Der getreue Music-Meister’ (1728-29) he reveals his intentions when he writes that the function of music is "to serve one’s neighbour". This reflects the educational ideal of the 18th century bourgeoisie.

Apart from the quality of Telemann’s works there is another reason why musicians were eager to know them. As Karl Böhmer writes in his liner notes, Telemann’s compositions were "messages from a composer who was accustomed to being a nose’s length ahead of other composers as far as the spirit of the times was concerned."

In the ‘VI Trio a Violini e Basso’, published in the 1720’s, Telemann answers the growing popularity of the trio sonata form, which had its origins in Italy. A pirate edition, published in Paris, referred specifically to the Italian style: "Six sonates en trio dans le goût italien". Within that framework, however, Telemann’s trio sonatas contain a lot of variation. All but one of the six sonatas are in four movements. There are some dance-like elements, some movements have a pastorale character, sometimes we meet sighing motifs, there is variation in the amount of imitation between the voices.

The different manuscripts contain contradictory information as far as the instrumentation is concerned. One requires 2 violins, another 2 transverse flutes, a third violin and transverse flute. Since the parts never exceed the range and technical possibilities of the transverse flute, it is safe to say that Telemann wanted to keep these trio sonatas playable on violins and transverse flutes alike.

Apart from these six trio sonatas, three other works are included here. The two sonatas for violin, bassoon and bc are written in a concerto style. Ritornelli are alternating with solo passages for violin and bassoon respectively. They are reminiscent of Vivaldi’s ‘concerti da camera’.

The CD opens with a quartet. It is one of the ‘Six Quatuors ou Trio’ from 1733, which can be performed as a trio with a ‘basso obbligato’ or as a quartet with ‘basso obbligato’ and basso continuo. Telemann suggests a performance with two bassoons or two cellos for the two bass parts, with a reinforcement of the second bass instrument by a harpsichord in the manner of a basso continuo. The ensemble has chosen for another option: bassoon as first bass and cello with organ as second bass. It is one of the liberties the ensemble has allowed itself. Considering the freedom Telemann used to give the interpreters of his music that may be justified. More questionable is the performance of the Trio sonata in A, where in the third movement an organ improvisation is added which turns the piece into a quartet. Nowhere I can find the arguments for this decision.

On the other hand, the ensemble did not take the freedom Telemann seems to have given in regard to the instrumentation. A performance of some trio sonatas with two transverse flutes or with the combination violin/flute would have been a nice alternative to the two violins.

I have listened to this CD with great pleasure. It is always surprising how much variation Telemann’s music holds. He may have the reputation to have written music which is easy to listen to – which is only partly true - but one has to admire his creativity and imagination. I haven’t been bored one second. That is also the merit of the performers. They are exploiting all possibilities of these pieces. Their way of playing is a joy to listen to: beautiful ornamentation, rallentandi, differentiation in dynamics and articulation, well-chosen tempi and imaginative continuo-playing.

Usually, CPO productions are of a high technical standard. Therefore it is surprising that something has gone wrong here. According to the track list in the booklet the CD contains 33 tracks. In fact there are only nine: one track for every single piece, which is very inconvenient. Someone must have taken a nap at the wrong time ...

Johan van Veen

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