TELEMANN: 6 Sonatas for Two Flutes without Bass
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Georg Philipp Telemann(1681-1767)
Six Sonatas for twoflutes, Op. 2
Georg Philipp Telemannwas among the most distinguished composers of his time, a rival to his friendJohann Sebastian Bach in reputation, and the certain preference of the Leipzigauthorities for the position of Cantor at the St Thomas Choir School, whereBach was eventually appointed in 1723. Telemann had, in 1721, taken theposition of Cantor of the Johanneum in Hamburg, with musical responsibility forthe five principal city churches of the city. His negotiations with Leipzig ayear later proved the means to secure better conditions in Hamburg, where heremained until his death in 1767. He was succeeded there by his godson CarlPhilipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian.
Born in Magdeburg in1681, Telemann belonged to a family that had long been connected with theLutheran Church. His father was a clergyman and his mother the daughter of aclergyman, while his elder brother also took orders, a path that he too mighthave followed, had it not been for his exceptional musical ability. As a childhe showed some precocity, but it was while he was a student at LeipzigUniversity, which he entered in 1701, that a career in music became inevitable.
He founded the University Collegium Musicum that Bach was later to direct andin 1703 became musical director of the Leipzig Opera, composing some twentyoperas himself. At the same time he involved his fellow-students in a greatdeal of public performance, to the annoyance of the Thomascantor, Bach'simmediate predecessor Kuhnau, who saw his prerogative now endangered.
After Leipzig Telemannwent on to become Kapellmeister to Count Erdmann II of Promnitz, a noblemanwith a taste for French music, and in 1708 moved to Eisenach, following thiswith a position as director of music to the city of Frankfurt am Main in 1712.
There were other offers of employment elsewhere, but it was to Hamburg that hefinally moved in 1721, to remain there for the rest of his life.
As a composer Telemannwas prolific, providing an enormous body of work, both sacred and secular. Thisincluded 1043 church cantatas and 46 settings of the Passions, one for each ofthe years he was in Hamburg. He continued to involve himself in publicperformances of opera in Hamburg, arousing some opposition from the citycouncil, his employers. Once he had strengthened his position he tookadditional responsibility as director of the Hamburg Opera, while active inpublishing and selling much of the music that he wrote. Four years Bach's senior,he outlived him by seventeen years, so that by the time of his death Haydn was35 and Mozart was eleven. His musical style developed with the times, from thecharacteristically late Baroque to the new stile galant exemplified byhis godson.
Telemann published his Sonates sans Basse ?á deux Flutes traverses, ou?á deux Violons, ou ?á deux Flutes ?á bec (Sonatas without Bass for TwoTransverse Flutes, or Two Violins, or Two Recorders) in Hamburg in 1727 andthey were published again in Amsterdam around the year l730 by Le C?¿ne, inParis in 1736-37 by Le Clerc and in London in 1746 as opera seconda by Walsh.
Telemann, in his own autobiographical notice published by Handel's Hamburgrival Mattheson in 1740 in his Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte, writes ofhis ability to play the keyboard, violin, recorder, oboe, flute, chalumeau andviola da gamba, as well as the double bass and trombone, skills that at thattime were not unique to him. The six sonatas for two melody instruments withouta bass follow common custom, a practical one, of leaving some latitude in thechoice of instrument, providing the possibility of wider sales, particularlyfor the flourishing amateur market for Hausmusik in Hamburg andelsewhere. It was in Hamburg that Handel wrote his early sonatas, a genre towhich Mattheson also notably contributed, and there is no doubt that the citywas at the centre of the development of the instrumental sonata in NorthGermany at this period.
The first sonata included, Sonata No. 5 in B minor, of thepresent performance by two baroque flutes, opens characteristically with a Largoin which one instrument enters in imitation of the other, a contrapuntalprocedure followed in the Vivace. There is a gentle Gratioso anda final Allegro in the expected rhythm of a gigue. This largelysets the style for the other works in the collection. All of these are in fourmovements, slow and fast in alternation, with passages of contrapuntalimitation and passages in which the two instruments engage together, generallyin thirds. Although relying on the dance rhythms of the Baroque instrumentalchamber sonata, only one movement is so acknowledged. The Sonata in Amajor, No. 3 in the present numbering, starts with a Siciliana andcontinues with contrapuntal imitation in a 6/4 movement, followed bymellifluous collaboration in the opening thirds of the F sharp minor Andante,capped by a lively 2/4 Allegro. In general Telemann provides veryplayable music throughout, ensuring variety, in spite of the obviouslimitations of the medium.
Mindy Rosenfeld studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and theSan Francisco Conservatory. She began her career as a member of the BaltimoreConsort and several other East Coast groups, before moving to Mendocino,California, where she is principal flautist of the Mendocino Summer MusicFestival Orchestra and the Symphony of the Redwoods. She has performed andrecorded with San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra since 1989, and isa member of American Baroque. She divides her time between performing, teachingand looking after her family.