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8.570563 - TELEMANN, G.P.: 12 Fantasies for Solo Violin (Hadelich)
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Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767)
Twelve Fantasies for Solo Violin

 

Georg Philipp Telemann was among the most distinguished composers of his time, a rival to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach in reputation, and the certain preference of the Leipzig authorities for the position of Cantor at the St Thomas Choir School, where Bach was eventually appointed in 1723. Telemann had, in 1721, taken the position of Cantor of the Johanneum in Hamburg, with musical responsibility for the five principal city churches of the city. His negotiations with Leipzig a year later proved the means to secure better conditions in Hamburg, where he remained until his death in 1767. He was succeeded there by his godson Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian.

Born in Magdeburg in 1681, Telemann belonged to a family that had long been connected with the Lutheran Church. His father was a clergyman and his mother the daughter of a clergyman, while his elder brother also took orders, a path that he too might have followed, had it not been for his exceptional musical ability. As a child he showed some precocity, but it was while he was a student at Leipzig University, which he entered in 1701, that a career in music became inevitable. He founded the University Collegium Musicum that Bach was later to direct and in 1703 became musical director of the Leipzig Opera, composing some twenty operas himself. At the same time he involved his fellow-students in a great deal of public performance, to the annoyance of the Thomascantor, Bach’s immediate predecessor Kuhnau, who saw his prerogative now endangered.

After Leipzig Telemann went on to become Kapellmeister to 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 of music to the city of Frankfurt am Main in 1712. There were other offers of employment elsewhere, but it was to Hamburg that he finally moved in 1721, to remain 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 1043 church cantatas and 46 settings of the Passions, one for each of the years he was in Hamburg. He continued to involve himself in public performances of opera in Hamburg, arousing some opposition from the city council, his employers. Once he had strengthened his position he took additional responsibility as director of the Hamburg Opera, 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 the time of his death Haydn was 35 and Mozart was eleven. His musical style developed with the times, from the characteristically late Baroque to the new stile galant exemplified by his godson.

Telemann’s Zwölf Fantasien für Violin ohne Bass dates from 1735 and is among those many compositions written with an eye to the amateur or student market. These unaccompanied violin pieces, in a genre that Bach had taken to a level of much greater complexity, explore the possibilities of solo violin writing, with suggestions of polyphony or, at least, of the missing bass, in compositions that make relatively modest demands on a player. Telemann makes use of current instrumental forms derived from the sonata or suite of the time, often with an overt debt to Corelli and his Italian successors.

The Fantasie No. 1 in B flat major starts with a slow introductory movement, its first phrase echoed and containing further dynamic contrasts. It is followed by an Allegro with characteristic Baroque figuration and, as in the first movement, a modest element of double and triple stopping. A G minor Grave leads to a repetition of the Allegro. There is a greater use of multiple stopping in the opening Largoof Fantasie No. 2 in G major and the following Allegro in 3/8 with further triplet figuration, a feature of the final Allegro, with its suggestion of a Gigue. Fantasie No. 3 in F minor makes greater polyphonic use of the violin in its opening Adagio, as it does in the succeeding Presto. A brief Grave provides a link with the final Vivace in 3/8.

Fantasie No. 4 in D major starts with a rapid Vivace, followed by a solemn six-bar Grave in B minor with quadruple stopping. The piece ends with an Allegro in 12/8, a cheerful Gigue in all but name. Fantasie No. 5 in A major takes a different form. A brief opening Allegro passage leads to a contrapuntal Presto modulating to E major. The Allegro returns, followed by a version of the contrapuntal Presto that finds its way back to A major. A six-bar F sharp minor Andante, ending in a Phrygian cadence, is succeeded by an Allegro that varies its duple metre with triplet figuration. Fantasie No. 6 in E minor has an opening Grave in which, as elsewhere in initially contrapuntal movements of this kind, a second voice enters in imitation of the first, a procedure found again as the movement progresses. There is a contrapuntal element in the Presto that follows, leading to a G major Siciliana. The last movement, marked Allegro frames a central E major section with a repeated outer E minor section.

The first movement of the Fantasie No. 7 in E flat major is marked Dolce, an aria that largely avoids multiple stopping. The second movement, an Allegro¸ leads to a C minor Largothat contrasts the upper and lower register of the violin, as does the concluding Presto. Fantasie No. 9 in B minor starts with a Siciliana, followed by a Vivace. The piece ends with a gigue-like Allegro. The initial movement of the Fantasy No. 10 in D major is marked Presto. It is followed by a B minor Largoin which the first phrase is echoed by the second. The piece ends with an Allegro in 9/8, with initially wide descending leaps. The Fantasie No. 11 in F major starts with a movement marked Un poco vivace. This is followed by a second movement, in 3/8 and marked Soave and with the suggestion of an aria. It is to be repeated Un poco vivace. The final Allegro, which returns to the original key, is entirely without multiple stopping. The set ends with the Fantasy No. 12 in A minor, its Moderato opening characterized by dotted rhythms. This leads to a Vivace in 6/8, with a final Presto in A major.

 

Keith Anderson


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