Georg Philipp Telemann: Violin Concerto in A major “The Frogs”, TWV 51:A4 – Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin


 

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)

Violin Concerto in A major (“The Frogs”), TWV 51:A4 (ca. 1720)

00:00 – Ohne Satzbezeichnung

05:30 – Adagio

10:11 – Menuet alternativement

Performed by the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. Recorded by Harmonia Mundi in 2002. “The Violin Concerto in A major (TWV 51:A4), which has come to light only fairly recently, does not take as its musical model the song of the nightingale (as in ‘La Bizarre’ [TWV 55:G2]) or of the goldfinch (Vivaldi), but the croaking of the common frog, also called ‘Reling’ in certain regions of Germany, whence the concerto’s subtitle. Nothing better could be expected of a composer who found inspiration even in crows and in the out-of-tune playing of village musicians! Although this concerto, which the manuscript attributes to Telemann, bears traces of his personal style, other features, such as the exceptionally high solo part, leave room for doubt. At a structurally important point in the first movement the soloist produces no more than a succession of repeated notes, ‘a-a, a-a’, which infect the other parts as well. Of course, this is the vowel that the frog croaks, given a distinctive tone-colour by use of the open A string and stopped D string. But worse is to come. In the second ritornello the orchestral violins ‘forget’ the beginning of their theme, whilst the cello inappropriately pushes its way into the foreground. The setting of the second movement (Adagio), probably a moonlit stretch of shallow water, then audibly inspires a pair of courting frogs to make sweet music together. We are given the opportunity to rejoice in their croaking offspring in the concluding Menuet and its rapid Double. This movement entirely dispenses with concertante sounds of nature and thereby betrays its origins in the suite, where it always takes its accustomed place in Telemann’s music. If we knew that a satirist was at work in this ‘Relinge’ Concerto, someone who was deliberately exhibiting all these deviations from good taste, then we could infer with some certainty that the composer is indeed Telemann. Since his own concertos ‘smack of France’ (as he puts it in his autobiography of 1718), we may most likely credit him with permitting his not at all ‘sullen old heart’ a little joke at the expense of the relevant concertos of a certain Italian composer…” – Peter Huth (trans. Charles Johnston)

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