Telemann wrote more than any other composer of the baroque period for my instrument, the recorder – and with idiomatic success which is what has encouraged me to get to know the composer and his music in greater depth-.
Telemann was originally supposed to study law, but insisted that music would be his focus. Moreover, he proved to be not only a great composer, but also an organizer of concerts and a publisher of musical scores. He was a highly versatile entrepreneur as well as a remarkable and curiously “modern” musician: a man who took hard work in his stride, becoming one of the most prolific composers of all times.
Stylistically Telemann was an eclectic, schooled in a huge range of idioms, embracing both the utmost rigor as well as a more light-hearted vein (see for instance the collection of Trietti metodichi e scherzi). This latter style was considered highly advanced at the time, and was to achieve the finest outcome with Mozart, who is the most loved and performed composer of our own times. Telemann certainly owed a lot to the Italian school exemplified by Arcangelo Corelli, but at the same time he was also a great admirer of the French style. He often included folk music, mixing everything together with consummate skill, and appealing to audiences in a manner unparalleled by other musicians of the period.
The four cantatas in this recording are fully representative of those belonging to the Harmonischer Gottesdienst (music for religious services), a collection of cantatas for solo voice and flute, oboe or violin, and harpsichord. The originality of many of the copious musical ideas makes the collection an outstanding repertoire for a small ensemble comprising voice, a high-pitched instrument and the continuo. The idiomatic writing for the voice, its relation to the instrumental parts and the many indications concerning interpretation place the Harmonischer Gottesdienst among the great achievements of the period. They also greatly facilitate the task of the performer.
One of Telemann’s characteristic skills was his ability to imbue the arias of these cantatas with the sort of brilliance that we normally associate with solo concertos. A case in point is deine Toten warden leben, where the radiance of the initial aria counterbalances the sweetness of the concludins one. The first aria of Hemmet den Eifer again reveals Telemann’s compositional skills, and at the same time testifies to his familiarity with the recorder. In fact the recorder part is full of demanding passage work of the sort one might expect in a solo concerto. The vocal score, on the other hand, is smooth and linear, which makes for a particularly effective contrast. The opening aria of Du bist verflucht, o Schreckensstimme features some unusual chromaticism that conjures up a sense of expressive anger, further emphasized by the tense instrumental interplay and the active participation of the basso continuo.
The two rarely heard instrumental pieces here are not only particularly enjoyable, but also significant within the wider context of Telemann’s oeuvre. The various movements of the E minor Partita in the Kleine Kammermusik collection create a fluctuating range of atmospheres, and there is a wide-ranging expressive universe in the G minor Trio Sonata. To judge from the quantity and quality of the music Telemann wrote for the recorder, the composer must have been a more than competent player himself; he chooses convenient keys and pitches, and also exploits the entire range of the instrument. Features of this sort are not as common in the music of Vivaldi and Haendel, although both also wrote important works for the recorder. The highly varied virtuoso nature of Telemann’s compositions for the instrument is undeniably demanding for the performer. Because the overall impact of the works is so extraordinary, however, to play them is also uniquely rewarding. Stefano Bagliano