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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Elegant Telemann

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)

Twelve Fantasies for Solo Violin, TWV 40:14-25

Fantasie No. 1 in B-flat Major [6:41]
Fantasie No. 2 in G Major [6:04]
Fantasie No. 3 in f minor [4:09]
Fantasie No. 4 in D Major [4:12]
Fantasie No. 5 in A Major [4:39]
Fantasie No. 6 in e minor [6:48]
Fantasie No. 7 in E-flat Major [7:21]
Fantasie No. 8 in E Major [4:37]
Fantasie No. 9 in b minor [5:32]
Fantasie No. 10 in D Major [4:13]
Fantasie No. 11 in F Major [4:52]
Fantasie No. 12 in a minor [4:46]

Augustin Hadelich, (violin)

Recorded at St. John Crysostom Church, New Market, Canada, 31 August to 3 September 2007.

NAXOS 8.570563 [64:52]

Georg Philipp Telemann was four years Sebastian Bach’s senior and was the Leipzig Town Council’s first choice to be cantor of the Thomaskirche, a position which eventually went to Bach as, if it is to be believed, about the third runner-up. The deal proved to be a boon to Telemann, who got a considerable raise in salary at Hamburg, and a thorn to both JSB and the good council of Leipzig, whose relationship was to be stormy throughout its duration. Telemann went on to outlive Bach by some seventeen years and his output would span at least two style periods. A master musician, Telemann was famous for his ability to play a number of instruments exceptionally well. Consequently, his music is some of the most idiomatic of any composed in his era, and seems even in its most complex and technical passages to fit perfectly within the scope of its intended instrument. One of the most prolific composers of his generation, Telemann left behind 1046 Church cantatas, more than 40 Passion settings, dozens of operas and countless works for chamber ensembles and orchestra.

The Twelve Fantasies for Violin without bass were geared toward the amateur and student market. In today’s publishing lingo, they might be dubbed as ESH works (easy, sounds hard) and they exploit the possibilities of the solo violin including double and triple stops and string crossings that imply polyphonic writing not otherwise possible on a melody instrument. Bach would exploit the solo violin’s expressive nature to the fullest in his Six Sonatas and Partitas (BWV 1001-1006), but in these works, Telemann seeks a less thorny path, one that is more easily traveled by talented players of less than professional ability.

At times tuneful and lyrical, at others jaunty and dance-like and at still others almost mournful and melancholy, these brief works run the gamut of expression. Yet, there is a serenity to all of them that makes for engaging listening. Augustin Hadelich, who in 2006 took the gold medal at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis plays with deft ease. Although he is playing on a modern steel stringed instrument, he manages to produce a light, even airy tone that is not overwrought with vibrato and romantic shellac. It takes a real master to bring out all of the grace in what to him must be fairly simple music to play, but Mr. Hadelich never condescends. Each piece is delivered with commitment.

Hadelich’s handling of the faster movements is worth particular mention. Although Telemann only hints at polyphonic textures, Mr. Hadelich connects the lines in such a way that we definitely get the illusion of more than one voice. His attention to melodic shape is most evident in the slower movements, particularly those cast in the minor mode. He sings with his instrument, breathing in all the right places and balancing tension and release to perfection. This is lyrical music making of the first order, and although the works themselves are less than completely profound, they are so well crafted as to be satisfying for player and listener alike.

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