TELEMANN: Musique de Table
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Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Musique de table (Tafelmusik), Volume 3
Part II (Continued): Quartet, Concerto,Trio, Sonata and Conclusion
Georg Philipp Telemann was among the mostdistinguished composers of his time, a rival to his friend Johann SebastianBach in reputation and the certain preference of the Leipzig authorities forthe position 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 principalchurches of the city. His negotiations with Leipzig a year later proved themeans to secure better conditions in Hamburg, where he remained until his deathin 1767. He was succeeded there by his godson Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, thesecond son of Johann Sebastian.
Born in Magdeburg in 1681, Telemannbelonged to a family that had long been connected with the Lutheran Church. Hisfather was a clergyman and his mother the daughter of a clergyman, while hiselder brother also took orders, a path that he too might have followed, had itnot been for his exceptional musical ability. As a child he showed someprecocity but it was while he was a student at Leipzig University, which heentered in 1701, that a career in music became inevitable. He founded theUniversity Collegium Musicum that Bach was later to direct and in 1703 becamemusical director of the Leipzig Opera, composing some twenty operas himself. Atthe same time he involved his fellow-students in a great deal of publicperformance, to the annoyance of the Thomascantor, Bach's immediatepredecessor Kuhnau, who saw his prerogative now endangered.
After Leipzig Telemann went on to become Kapellmeisterto Count Erdmann II of Promnitz, a nobleman with a taste for French music,and in 1708 moved to Eisenach, following this with a position as director ofmusic to the city of Frankfurt am Main in 1712. There were other offers ofemployment elsewhere, but it was to Hamburg that he finally moved in 1721, toremain there for the rest of his life.
As a composer Telemann was prolific,providing an enormous body of work, both sacred and secular. This included 1043church cantatas and 46 settings of the Passions, one for each of the years hewas in Hamburg. He continued to involve himself in public performances of operain Hamburg, arousing some opposition from the city council, his employers. Oncehe had strengthened his position he took additional responsibility as directorof the Hamburg Opera, while active in publishing and selling much of the musicthat he wrote. Four years Bach's senior, he outlived him by seventeen years, sothat by the time of his death Haydn was 35 and Mozart was eleven. His musicalstyle developed with the times, from the characteristically late Baroque to thenew stile galant exemplified by his godson.
Telemann's Musique de table waspublished in 1733, a collection of music divided into three Productions, eachone containing an overture with a suite for seven instruments, a quartet, aconcerto for seven instruments, a trio, a solo and a conclusion for seveninstruments, and advertised as offering a variety of instrumentation. On thetitle-page where this is announced Telemann declares himself to be Ma?«tre deChapelle to Their Highnesses the Duke of Saxe- Eisenach and the Margrave ofBayreuth and Director of Music in Hamburg. Telemann had been appointed to theposition of Kapellmeister von Haus aus (visiting Kapellmeister)
to the Duke of Saxe-Eisenach in 1717, with the duty of providing music forthe church, Tafel Music and the necessary music for solemn occasions.
The appointment confirmed his earlier activity and residence at Eisenach from1708 until 1712, when he took up his appointment in Frankfurt. In Leipzig,Eisenach and Frankfurt, as subsequently in Hamburg, he was closely involvedwith the provision and performance of instrumental music. In Hamburg he heldregular weekly meetings of the Collegium Musicum, at first in his house andthen in the Drillhaus, reviving an institution comparable to that which he hadfounded in Leipzig and worked with in Frankfurt, but which before his arrivalhad fallen into abeyance.
Telemann's wide reputation by 1733 iswitnessed by the list of 206 subscribers to the Musique de table. 52 ofthese came from abroad and included among them musicians of great distinction,such as the French flautist and composer Blavet and, from London, Mr. HendelDocteur en Musique, while German subscribers ranged from members of thenobility to leading figures in the world of music. The work is in the Frenchstyle. As Telemann explained in a letter to the composer Graun, since there wasnothing new to be found in melody, so novelty must be sought in the harmony, anunduly modest assessment of his achievement.
After the Ouverture to the secondpart of the Tafelmusik, a suite scored for oboe, trumpet, two violins,viola, cello and harpsichord, comes a Quartet, in D minor, scored fortwo flutes, a third part allocated to recorder or, an octave lower, to cello orbassoon, with cello or bassoon and harpsichord providing a basso continuo. Inthe present performance cello and bassoon alternate between the third part andthe fourth, the continuo. The three melodic parts enter in imitation oneof the other, with the two flutes soon joining together in mellifluous thirds.
There is imitation again in a second entry of the subject, with changes ininstrumentation, a procedure broadly followed as the movement continues,leading to the return of the opening subject and key and the trill thatprecedes the second movement, with its opening section for the two flutes. Thebassoon part enters, providing a background to the answering figures of theflutes and entrusted with solo passages, accompanied by the basso continuo, ingeneral contrast with the two upper parts. The Largo, an A minor siciliano,is started by the first flute, in traditional style. The Quartet endswith a D minor Allegro. Triplet rhythms are introduced with a change ofkey to D major, before the opening section of the movement is repeated.
The Concerto, in F major, is scoredfor three solo violins and an orchestral ensemble of violin, viola, cello andharpsichord. The opening Allegro at first has all the instrumentspresenting the ritornello, the material that is to return, punctuatingsolo entries from each of the three solo violins, in turn. The solo instrumentsenter in imitation of each other in the D minor Largo, its outersections framing a central passage for the solo instruments, vestigiallyaccompanied. The style of the Italian concerto continues in the final Vivace.
Telemann scores the E minor Trio forflute, oboe and bassoon and harpsichord continuo. The opening movementis marked Affettuoso, an indication that suggests both the gentle paceand feeling of the music. An Allegro follows, initiated by the oboe,while it is the flute that starts the E major third movement, marked Voice. Theoriginal key returns in the final Vivace.
The Solo Sonata is in A major,scored for violin and cello and harpsichord continuo. The lyricalopening Andante leads to a rhythmic Vivace, followed by an Fsharp minor third movement, marked Cantabile and provided with fullopportunity, in its ornamentation, for intensity of feeling. The final Allegrois in 1