Text of the booklet "G.Ph. Telemann. Complete Orchestral Suites, vol.2"
En route to Paris
In 1725 Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) in addition to his official and other professional responsibilities started his own publishing firm with which he realized a variety of projects, some of them using innovative formats. While it is generally known that he engraved his music onto copperplates himself, a look at his correspondence reveals that he also organized the distribution of the finished products by selling copies from his own apartment and in the “music shop at the stock exchange” as well as through his contacts with musicians, booksellers and merchants throughout Europe. Until 1740 Telemann published several hundred works gathered in almost fifty printed opera. The culminating point of his private publishing endeavor was his Musique de Table of 1733, which apart from enhancing his international reputation must have been highly profitable, as he was eager to invest in new projects. To this end he offered, in his catalogue flyers, “works that may be edited by and by” in order to whet his clients’ appetite for new compositions and to find out which kind of music might sell.
Among these were the VI Ouvertures a 4 ou 6, which were rediscovered recently in the Russian State Library in Moscow. They are presented in this recording in a world premiere based on the original print, performed by the ensemble Pratum Integrum. Telemann’s plans for these pieces can be traced back to the Amsterdam catalogue of 1733, in which they are announced as the fifth work among the forthcoming publications: “6. Ouvertures avec la suite comique, a 2 Violons, Violle & B[asse] chiffr[ee]”. In fact another two and a half years were to pass before the actual date of publication, during which the project was apparently modified, including a more flexible instrumentation. Telemann planned to launch the edition around Easter of 1736.
On March 6, 1736, the journal Hamburgische Berichte von neuen Gelehrten Sachen published the following report describing the overture project in detail:
“Capellmeister Telemann is currently working on 6 overtures, together with their extended suites. Three of them require 2 violins or oboes, viola, and continuo. The other three add 2 horns, which may be omitted, however. The printing will be completed around Ascension Day of this current year 1736 and it will be seen that, both with regard to the clarity of the engraving and the quality of the paper they will outdo all previous works. And even though the length of the publication approaches 100 plates, no more than 2 ? Rthlr. advance payment will be expected, which the editor will accept against receipt, recommending this music to the connoisseurs as a style in which his pen is especially well-trained. Hoping for and expecting a considerable number of signatures ...”.
The work eventually turned into an opus of 91 printed pages. Thus the price of 2 ? Reichsthaler was calculated too low, which could be balanced only by advertising for additional subscriptions. The delay of the publication date, on the other hand, may have been necessitated by an event that was the cause of legends still during Telemann’s lifetime.
“I have wished, in this [letter], to avoid bothering your highness with too many complaints about my present state, which you have probably already heard about in any case”, Telemann wrote on January 4 to Johann Richey in Vienna, the son of his Hamburg colleague. “Enough, I trust that having favoured me in the past you will now deem me worthy of your pity.”
What exactly it was that made the famous musician so pitiable is hinted at in a letter to his friend, the young merchant J.R. Hollander in Riga, to whom Telemann reported on September 1, 1736, by now ready again to write in verse:
“Soon a boat will bring you the overtures
Which only a short while ago left my printing press.”
This is followed by a look back at the disaster which he was slowly beginning to overcome:
“My situation is still hardly bearable at present.
My wife has gone and thus this wastefulness has come to an end.
If I can get rid of my debts by and by,
(They still amount to about 1400 Thalers, and this after I have paid 3000 Thalers, not knowing where they have come from.)
Paradise will return to my house.
The cherished city of Hamburg has stood by me loyally
and opened its hand magnanimously.
(Without my knowing of it a book has circulated in town in which everybody recorded his contribution; in this way I received more than 600 thalers subsidy.)
But outside town there may perhaps be additional donors.”
Telemann’s biographers suppose that Maria Catharina Telemann, nee Textor, who had been married to the composer since 1715 and had born him nine children, had amassed debts amounting altogether to more than 5000 thalers, which her husband was confronted with in the course of the year 1735. Whether this happened as a consequence of the couple separating or whether their separation occurred after these debts were revealed remains unknown. In any case his wife returned to her native city of Frankfurt am Main and continued to live there. It is also not known what had been the cause of these debts, which now even threatened the existence of Telemann’s publishing company, whose main assets consisted of engraved copperplates. As to the underlying reasons for the rupture between husband and wife, there are only rumours. Hints at a possible cause may be found in a song text which Telemann had chosen – perhaps deliberately – to set to music a year before.
Too fond of ornaments
How often has it turned out a wrong choice
When, loath to favour domestic qualities,
In precipitate attraction
A man has wooed an ornamented doll.
For a woman who only plays with anointed fingers,
And never turns the spinning-wheel,
Will neither help lessen the care and worry
Both for one’s home and one’s children.
(Friedrich von Canitz)
It might be interesting to see if these events left their mark on the composition; it is at least noteworthy that the comic attributes, which apply to a number of movements, have been eliminated from the title. The following year Telemann was already in the midst of preparing for his journey to France. His finances had recovered, not least due to the 6 Ouvertures, and in Paris there would be new honours and new sources of income. That the Sonates Corellisantes – not, however, the 6 Ouvertures – would see an additional printing in Paris shows that at the time the French publishers were already expecting to make higher profits with Italian music. Still, overtures by Telemann continued to be publically performed in Paris well into the 1750s.
The Six Overture Suites of 1736
Peter Huth, translated by Stephanie Wollny
Having expressed his preference of the “vermischte Geschmack” (mixed style) in the Musique de Table of 1733, in some of his next compositions Telemann separated the various stylistic components again, as if wishing to preserve the advantages of the Italian and the French style against the present flood of new musical trends, some of which he considered superficial. In this he was following a classicist trend that had been initiated by Francois Couperin in his chamber music collections published between 1724 and 1726. The VI Ouvertures a 4 ou 6 are French in style; the Sonates Corellisantes of 1735, on the other hand, follow the idiom of the famous Italian composer. Corelli also provided the model for Handel’s Concerti Grossi opus 6 of 1739.
While the concertante overtures of the Musique de Table boasted seven distinct parts, here Telemann reduced the number of parts to four, leaving it to the performers to equip each part with one or several players and to use doubling or alternating woodwinds. With the optional addition of two horns in the overtures in F major, E flat major, and D major he responded to the newest symphonies which with their brass instruments were able to produce a wonderful ensemble sound in the middle range. In Telemann’s music horns assume a number of functions within the musical structure: They serve to enhance the sound of the leading melodic voices, either colla parte or in the lower octave. They emphasize the metrical structure and strengthen the basso continuo by supporting its harmonic progressions. In some cases they add obbligato phrases to the thematic development. So while one might do without them, one had better not.
Each work consists of the French overture and a series of six additional movements, the three-part first movement always being compositionally the most demanding. Telemann always takes this movement very serious, even its carefully structured fugal middle sections. The overture in F major opens the entire collection with a splendid first movement. The overture in E flat major is marked by its strikingly festive framing portal. The overture in D major with the complementary rhythmic patterns of its upper voice and bass establishes an urgent sense of disquiet which is then alleviated by a melodious fugal theme. The first movement of the overture in G minor is dramatized through its chromaticism and persistent dotted rhythms, while its sister work in A minor appears rather introverted. The stationary voice-leading of the overture in A major is strikingly dissolved in its fugue.
Each suite builds up and dissolves its tensions in a different manner, but mostly the principle of contrasting individual movements prevails. We can observe three different ways of constructing the finale. The overture suites in F and D major end with a Chaconne and a Passacaille respectively, both of which with their open variation structure have a high potential for building up tension. The second finale type, found in the overture suites in E flat major and G minor, counts on surprising the listener with its satirical turn (Les querelleurs – the quarrelers) or mask-like cheerfulness (Harlequinade). This kind of scherzo-finale with its “farewell” function is also found in the concluding Canarie of the A major overture suite. Of a different character is the tension built in the overture suite in a minor with its loose series of standard dances: here after a lively Forlane the work concludes with a melancholy Menuet framing a delicate double in A major, which appears like a consoling memory.
In 22 of altogether 36 suite movements Telemann almost exemplarily goes through his entire repertoire of dance movements: Bourree, Branle, Canarie, Chaconne, Courante, Entree, Forlane, Gaillarde, Gavotte, Gigue, Hornpipe, Loure, Menuet, Passacaille, Passepied, Polonoise, Rigaudon, Sarabande. As the most popular dance the Menuet appears in altogether five suites, thus foreshadowing its role in the classical symphony; it is always accompanied by a contrasting double (trio) and its position within the succession of dances varies frequently. The Rondeau, which here follows the pattern ABACA, appears three times, once under the title of Musette. The Air, a movement type of variable metre and character, appears here as a slow movement containing reminiscences of a melody from the Kleine Kammermusik of 1716 which Telemann frequently quotes in his compositions. His chara-
cter pieces include the Rejouissance, which here appears with a virtuosic double, and the unique Villanelle, which is marked Modere and thus requires a calm tempo. The term Villanelle is not intended in a generic meaning here but should be taken li-
terally, i.e. a rustic-idyllic character movement of a certain bold popularity. Also of a certain narrative turn are the Pastourelle, which is again marked Modere, La douceur (softness), Les coureurs (the racing horses), Les gladiateurs (the gladiators), Les querelles (the quarrelers), Napolitaine (with a double), and Harlequinade. The term Mourky describes a fashionable popular song and refers to a novel technique of accompaniment (fast octave leaps in the bass) which also appears in Telemann’s Oden of 1741.
Altogether the VI Ouvertures a 4 ou 6 offer a wonderful compendium of movements from a genre of almost unlimited possibilities. Assorted by similar or contrasting musical moods and arranged by contrasting keys, they show Telemann as an author and publisher at the height of his time.
Text of the booklet "G.Ph. Telemann. Complete Orchestral Suites, vol.2"