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8.554132 - TELEMANN: 6 Sonatas for Two Flutes without Bass

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Six Sonatas for two flutes, Op. 2

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 published his Sonates sans Basse à deux Flutes traverses, ou à deux Violons, ou à deux Flutes à bec (Sonatas without Bass for Two Transverse Flutes, or Two Violins, or Two Recorders) in Hamburg in 1727 and they were published again in Amsterdam around the year l730 by Le Cène, in Paris in 1736-37 by Le Clerc and in London in 1746 as opera seconda by Walsh. Telemann, in his own autobiographical notice published by Handel's Hamburg rival Mattheson in 1740 in his Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte, writes of his ability to play the keyboard, violin, recorder, oboe, flute, chalumeau and viola da gamba, as well as the double bass and trombone, skills that at that time were not unique to him. The six sonatas for two melody instruments without a bass follow common custom, a practical one, of leaving some latitude in the choice of instrument, providing the possibility of wider sales, particularly for the flourishing amateur market for Hausmusik in Hamburg and elsewhere. It was in Hamburg that Handel wrote his early sonatas, a genre to which Mattheson also notably contributed, and there is no doubt that the city was at the centre of the development of the instrumental sonata in North Germany at this period.

The first sonata included, Sonata No. 5 in B minor, of the present performance by two baroque flutes, opens characteristically with a Largo in which one instrument enters in imitation of the other, a contrapuntal procedure followed in the Vivace. There is a gentle Gratioso and a final Allegro in the expected rhythm of a gigue. This largely sets the style for the other works in the collection. All of these are in four movements, slow and fast in alternation, with passages of contrapuntal imitation and passages in which the two instruments engage together, generally in thirds. Although relying on the dance rhythms of the Baroque instrumental chamber sonata, only one movement is so acknowledged. The Sonata in A major, No. 3 in the present numbering, starts with a Siciliana and continues with contrapuntal imitation in a 6/4 movement, followed by mellifluous collaboration in the opening thirds of the F sharp minor Andante, capped by a lively 2/4 Allegro. In general Telemann provides very playable music throughout, ensuring variety, in spite of the obvious limitations of the medium.

Mindy Rosenfeld
Mindy Rosenfeld studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and the San Francisco Conservatory. She began her career as a member of the Baltimore Consort and several other East Coast groups, before moving to Mendocino, California, where she is principal flautist of the Mendocino Summer Music Festival Orchestra and the Symphony of the Redwoods. She has performed and recorded with San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra since 1989, and is a member of American Baroque. She divides her time between performing, teaching and looking after her family.

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