Sunday, February 10, 2008


I went today to hear a chamber music concert made up entirely of the music of Georg Philipp Telemann, a contemporary of Bach and Handel. I can't recall that I ever performed anything by him, but I can remember seeing his shelf of books in the library. It's bigger than Bach's.

The performers were a harpsichordist, a cellist, two violinists, a flautist and a soprano in various combinations. The flute, a violinist and the harpsichordist each played alone. All played together in a German language cantata on the Magnificat which began the program.

Telemann was quite the comic, apparently. The concert included Trauermusik on the death of a canary. The canary would be missed and the cat would be beaten. There is deep sadness and melodrama.

More comedy could be found in the Gulliver Suite for 2 violins. The movements are:

Lilliputsche Chaconne (all 32nd notes)
Brogdingnagische Gigue (all whole notes)
Gulliver Suite for two violins: Reverie der Laputier, nebst ihren Aufweckern
Loure der gesitten Houyhnhnms & Furie der unartigen Yahoos

These are inside jokes since it sounded like a suite.

The concert ended with something called a quartet played by four instruments, flute, violin, cello and harpsichord. As anyone knows, four instruments in the Baroque is a trio. The two instruments of the continuo count as only one. In this piece the cello and harpsichord are composed as legitimate separate parts, entering and dropping out separately with no hints of doubling. It was written in Paris and may have reflected the advancement of the rococo found in Paris at that time. It was said that he was the first German composer to travel to Paris. They would naturally have preferred Italy.

Times are changing. Perhaps Telemann will have a comeback.

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