EXPLORING MUSIC: THE INEXHAUSTIBLE BAROQUE
The MHS Review 384 VOL. 11, NO. 6 • 1987
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Surely all our members must have noticed--with some delight--the high percentage of baroque music among the Society's ongoing releases. There are good reasons for this. You love the jauntiness of the quick movements and the delicate sentiment of the slow movements. We continue to discover more treasures with which to satisfy your craving for music that is wellbred, sophisticated, mannerly, and, therefore, charming. Take the release at hand.
Telemann's dozen recorder sonatas have not been a regular part of anyone's listening for more than 200 years. They were written in 1734, passed down through the family, stashed away eventually in a church tower in Riga for about a century, and deposited, who knows when, in the Berlin State Library where they remained until they were recently liberated by the astonishingly fine musicians heard here. And what pleasure this enterprise gives us!
These are the sorts of pieces which gave Telemann a good name in his own day. They fairly bubble with tappable rhythms and hummable tunes. With four movements to each, the sonatas last from just under seven minutes (for the shortest) to a bit over 11 minutes (for the longest). Half are in major keys and half in minor. Variety abounds! Like little flocks of song birds, they dart past our ears to tickle our sensibility and engage our fancy-with exactly the right sort of help from the players.
Ms. Miessen warbles and chirps her way through thickets of notes with unerring accuracy, crisp articulation, and sweet tone using a recorder by Peter van der Poe! (The Hague). Her colleagues match her every nuance exactly: Wouter Moller uses a cello by Franciscus Celoniatus (Turin); Bob van Asperen plays a small organ by Jurgen Ahrend (Leer, West Germany) alternating with Glen Wilson, who uses a harpsichord by Walter Burr (Hoosick, New York). Skill, taste, and virtuosity mark the ensemble and bring out the best in each piece. Not surprisingly, the recorded sound is clear, with good stereo imaging and a sense of presence.
Anything more? Yes, graceful added ornaments-just a few-and, at cadences, a flourish or two. It is German music with an Italianate flair brought to life with style. The whole production is so good that it makes me shudder to recall the Society's early days a quarter of a century ago and the sort of baroque performances we could get out of Europe then.
Stolid is the word to describe them. How they thunked and clunked their way along. Rhythms were stultifyingly regular in the fast parts, like the sound of sewing machines, and positively Wagnerian in the slow bits. Leather plectra in the harpsichords, heavy vibrato on the strings, and a certain doggedness of approach overall conspired to blunt the wit and dull the joy of music by composers such as Telemann. Thank heavens times have changed!
Research has given the baroque a new lease on life. Now we have performances that live and breathe and sing and dance--the way we know they did in 1734. Telemann has never sounded better, and since he wrote more than any other composer of his era, we have a lot to anticipate.
Auf Dem Strom : Romantic Works for Horn pg 11