Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Don Quixote Suite Ouverture in D minor Suite in E flatmajor, 'La Lyra'
Georg Philipp Telemann was among the most distinguishedcomposers of his time, a rival to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach inreputation, and the certain preference of the Leipzig authorities for theposition of Cantor at the St Thomas Choir School, where Bach was eventuallyappointed in 1723. Telemann had, in 1721, taken the position of Cantor of theJohanneum in Hamburg, with musical responsibility for the five principal citychurches of the city. His negotiations with Leipzig a year later proved the meansto secure better conditions in Hamburg, where he remained until his death in1767. He was succeeded there by his godson Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son ofJohann Sebastian.
Born in Magdeburg in 1681, Telemann belonged to a familythat had long been connected with the Lutheran Church. His father was aclergyman and his mother the daughter of a clergyman, while his elder brotheralso took orders, a path that he too might have followed, had it not been forhis exceptional musical ability. As a child he showed some precocity, but itwas while he was a student at Leipzig University, which he entered in 1701,that a career in music became inevitable. He founded the University CollegiumMusicum that Bach was later to direct and in 1703 became musical director ofthe Leipzig Opera, composing some twenty operas himself. At the same time heinvolved his fellow-students in a great deal of public performance, to theannoyance of the Thomascantor, Bach's immediate predecessor Kuhnau, who saw hisprerogative now endangered.
After Leipzig, Telemann went on to become Kapellmeister toCount Erdmann II of Promnitz, anobleman with a taste for French music, and in 1708 moved to Eisenach,following this with a position as director of music to the city of Frankfurt amMain in 1712. There were other offers of employment elsewhere, but it was toHamburg that he finally moved in 1721, to remain there for the rest of hislife.
As a composer Telemann was prolific, providing an enormousbody of work, both sacred and secular. This included 1043 church cantatas and46 settings of the Passions, one for each of the years he was in Hamburg. Hecontinued to involve himself in public performances of opera in Hamburg,arousing some opposition from the city council, his employers. Once he had strengthenedhis position he took additional responsibility as director of the HamburgOpera, while active in publishing and selling much of the music that he wrote.Four years Bach's senior, he outlived him by seventeen years, so that by thetime of his death Haydn was thirty-five and Mozart was eleven. His musicalstyle developed with the times, from the characteristically late Baroque to thenew stile galant exemplified by his godson.
In his later years Telemann returned to an episode fromCervantes' influential novel Don Quijote de la Mancha in a serenade based onDon Quixote's attendance at Camacho's wedding. His light-hearted programmesuite, described in its title as Burlesque de Quixotte, depicts episodes in theknight's career in instrumental terms, a tribute to a work that, published in1605 and 1615, had continued to have an influence on the European novel. Inorigin an attack, according to Cervantes, on the Spanish genre of Libros deCaballeria, it is open to many interpretations, not least as a study of thenature of reality, in a world where toda la vida es sueno, y los suenos suenosson, in the words of his rival, Lope de Vega. Telemann's suite starts with aFrench overture, its opening section marked by the expected dotted rhythms, nottaken quite seriously, before the central fugal section. After his assumptionof knighthood at the hands of an inn-keeper that he takes for a castellan andhis first unfortunate adventures, Don Quixote is found by a man from hisvillage and taken home. While he sleeps the priest and the village barber seekto root out the books that have been the cause of Don Quixote's delusions,walling up the room where his books were kept. When he wakes, Don Quixote ispuzzled by the disappearance of the room. Before long, however, he hasrecruited a labourer from the village, Sancho Panza, to serve as his squire,one who adds an element of plain, peasant common sense to the Don's delusions,coupled with wondering credulity. The first of Don Quixote's new adventures isto mistake some thirty or forty windmills for giants, which he proceeds toattack, with inevitable disaster, when his lance is shattered on a movingwindmill sail. His sighs of love for his imagined mistress, Dulcinea delToboso, no princess, but a farm-girl, are expressed in conventionalinstrumental sighs. Sancho Panza is led into various difficulties by hismaster, beaten by those that Don Quixote has opposed and, trying to leave aninn where the knight errant has refused to pay for his lodging, caught andtossed in a blanket. Don Quixote's hack that he calls Rosinante, a name thatsuggests the nag's earlier life, is depicted in a movement that frames adepiction of Sancho Panza's donkey. The suite ends with Don Quixote at homeonce more and falling asleep, as the music fades away.
Telemann's Ouverture in D minor, scored for three oboes,bassoon and strings, duly starts with a French overture, its formal openingsection followed by the expected fugal passage that it frames, with itsantiphonal use of the wind instruments and the strings. The fugal 9/8 sectionand formal conclusion are repeated. The first Menuet has a contrasting D majorsecond Menuet, its trio section, entrusted to two violins and oboe in athree-voice texture. The Gavotte makes some use of a sighing descending figure,and the series of French dances continues with a Courante. The following Airgives some prominence to the first oboe, with wind and strings often used indialogue. The Loure with its compound dotted rhythm leads to an EnglishHornepipe and to Canaries, a dance of Spanish origin. The suite ends with agigue.
Scored for strings, La Lyra starts with the expected Frenchoverture. The following first Menuet frames a contrasting second Menuet, andthis is followed by an unusual movement, La Vielle, an imitation of thehurdy-gurdy, once known as the lyra mendicorum, the beggars' lyre, with itsdrone accompaniment to the melody and consequent dissonances. The Sicilienneavec Cadenze is a stately 3/2 movement, with an ornamented melodic line. The moodchanges with a lively Rondeau dominated by its recurrent principal theme. Thefirst Bourree is repeated after the second, which offers a contrast ofregister, and all ends, as it must, with a Gigue.