Hanoverian Ensemble

Telemann in the French Style


Telemann Fr



John Solum & Richard Wyton flutes
Krista Bennion Feeney & Claire Jolivet violins
Monica Gerard viola
Arthur Fiacco cello
Jordan Frazier bass
Kent Tritle harpsichord

"expertly played..."
Turok's Choice ~ No.214, October 2009

"These players are excellent musicians..."
Barker, American Record Guide ~ September / October 2009

"...the Overture here is played one player to a part. This gives a different, more intimate, sound than usual. The performances are generally expert and lively. Tempos are reasonable... This recording can be recommended for someone wanting to sample Telemann’s chamber music."
Ron Salemi, Fanfare ~ September/October 2009

"...outwardly solid and offering historically informed performances... Musicianship is cohesive with worthy flute-playing..."
Lawrence A. Johnson, Gramophone ~ August 2009

"It seems as if we're getting a better perspective all the time on the music of Telemann. If we are, performances like these must surely claim a major share of the credit. A final analysis of one of history's longest lived and most prolific composers may at first seem daunting, but the task is made considerably easier by beautiful characterizations like the ones he receives here... The members of the Hanoverian Ensemble make telling contributions here. Not only does the musicianship on this CD have the freedom of expression that Telemann's graciously euphonious music requires, but these players are adept at instrumental phrases that overlap the bar lines as they constantly anticipate, compliment and elaborate on each other's musical thoughts. Their mutual rapport is impressive, adding to our listening pleasure."
Phil Muse, Audio Club of Atlanta ~ May 2009

Program Notes

Among the many qualities for which Telemann is admired, his talent for writing music that is both conceptually challenging and readily accessible is perhaps the rarest among composers.Agood case in point is his Musique de table, a self-published compendium of instrumental music designed to please all manner of players and listeners. Telemann issued the collection at Hamburg in 1733, finding hundreds of subscribers across Europe who were willing to purchase the music sight unseen. Tafelmusik ("table" or "banquet" music) was no novelty in itself, for persons of high standing had always desired music to accompany meals, weddings, christenings, and other festivities. But never before had "background" music been conceived on such a grand scale. Each of Telemann’s three musical sets or "Productions" consists of a suite (ouverture) for orchestra followed by a quartet sonata, concerto, trio sonata, solo sonata, and one-movement orchestral "conclusion"—about four hours of music in all. By turns brilliant, tuneful, and colorful, this music demands one’s undivided attention.

The Ouverture in E minor opens the collection’s first set, beginning as most orchestral suites do with a French overture in which a slow section, full of majestic dotted rhythms, gives way to a faster section featuring imitative counterpoint. It is at this tempo change that Telemann properly introduces his four soloists (pairs of flutes and violins) in turn and then together, all the while supported by the cello. Although they inhabit a French suite, the soloists sometimes behave as if they are in the midst of an Italian concerto, a juxtaposition of styles that Telemann’s German contemporaries found especially ennobling. The following movements include fashionable dance types such as the gavotte (Rondeau), loure, passepied, and gigue, but also a few character pieces unrelated to established dance types (Réjouissance and Air). As they unfold, the soloists’ interactions become less predictable, engaging in their most complex interactions during the Air.

Although they are not among Telemann’s best known works today, the trios in E minor and B minor were apparently quite popular during the 18th century. Both were advertised along with several companion works in a 1763 catalog of music available from the Leipzig publishing house of Breitkopf, predecessor to the current firm of Breitkopf & Härtel. The E minor trio, in particular, was used as teaching material in Berlin around this time by Johann Joachim Quantz, court composer and flute instructor to King Frederick the Great of Prussia. Quantz referred to the entire set of trios as being in the French style ("alla Francese"), and recommended them to the readers of his celebrated treatise on flute playing. Indeed, the music seems inspired by the published trios of Marin Marais, Michel de la Barre, and other French composers active around the turn of the 18th century. Telemann most likely composed his trios at this time, either as a university student in Leipzig (1701-05) or as a court musician in Sorau (1705-08) or Eisenach (1708-12).

Both trios recorded here are four-movement suites opening with a prelude and conforming to a sonata-like slow-fast-slow-fast design. The overall idiom may be decidedly French—with its graceful melodicism, danced-based rhythms, and ornamental notes known as agréments—but a "mixed" style of composition is detectable in Italo-German elements such as imitative textures (especially in the preludes) and running figurations most closely associated with sonatas and concertos (in, for example, the E-minor Viste Gay and Allegrement). Particularly evocative is the E-minor Grave, in which dramatic silences, abrupt dynamic and textural contrasts, and an adventurous harmonic plan offer a window into the world of French opera.

The Quartet in E minor for flute, violin, viola da gamba or cello, and continuo concludes the Nouveaux quatuors, the "new quartets" that Telemann published during his eight-month visit to Paris in 1737-38. Telemann had traveled to the French capital at the invitation of several virtuoso performers, probably the same ones who premiered the quartets to such good effect in the city and at court: the flutist Michel Blavet, the violinist Jean-Pierre Guignon, the gambist Jean-Baptiste Forqueray the younger, and the cellist "Edouard," whose first name is unknown. We may presume that Telemann himself performed on the harpsichord. One reason for the visit was evidently to stop the stream of unauthorized reprints of Telemann’s Hamburg publications by Charles-Nicholas Le Clerc and others. To this end, the composer received his own publishing privilege from the king.

If the trios "alla Francese" admit a few "foreign" stylistic elements, the Nouveaux quatuors achieve a nearly seamless blend of the French and Italian styles—precisely what Vivaldi-crazed audiences in Paris desired most in the 1730s. Although the quartets all take the form of suites, a number of movements make strong reference to other genres such as the fugue, sonata, concerto, and theme and variations. The E-minor quartet opens with a French overture in which the initially tragic mood gives way to a rhythmically animated fast section. Following this "orchestral" prelude is a series of dances or dance-inspired movements, though none are labeled as such. Perhaps the most striking among them is a character piece marked Distrait, in which "distraction" is evoked primarily through syncopated rhythms. Yet the quartet’s emotional weight is concentrated in its conclusion, a profound chaconne that represents one of the high points in the dance’s history. Telemann constructs the movement as a series of free, and highly contrasting, variations on a six-measure bass pattern. Phrases in the upper parts alternately coincide with statements of the pattern and extend across them, causing one to forget how regular the movement’s underlying structure really is. Here, as throughout the quartet, all three of the upper parts behave as if equal partners in a musical conversation, one in which they constantly anticipate, complete, and elaborate upon each other’s thoughts.

Steven Zohn, 2008