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A major figure of 18th century musical Europe, Telemann enjoyed in his time more fame and renown than even the great J.S. Bach. This great master of instrumental music, open to French and Italian influences as well as the new gallant style that flourished in Germany, succeeded, especially in his chamber music, in creating a charming synthesis of European styles at the crossroads between Baroque and Classicism.
“Flawless playing for all concerned, both in the suavity of the sound, the perfect balance and neat interplay between the voices, and the keen sense of drama they bring to Telemann’s outstanding chamber music.” – Early Music Review
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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sonata II for traverso, violin, gamba and basso continuo TWV 43:g1 (Sei Quadri, Hambourg, 1730)
Sonata in A minor TWV 42:a7 for traverso, gamba and basso continuo
Georg Friedrich HAENDEL (1685-1759)
Concerto a 4 (D minor) (v. 1715, ms. Graf von Schönborn, Wisentheid)
Trio V for violin, gamba and basso continuo TWV 42:g1 (Sechs Trios, Francfort 1718)
6ème Quatuor TWV 43:e4 (Nouveaux Quatuors, Paris, 1738)
Serge Saitta, traverso
Stéphan Dudermel, violin
Florence Bolton, viola da gamba
Benjamin Perrot, theorbo
Carsten Lohff, harpsichord
Georg Philipp Telemann was a figurehead in the musical world of the 18th century : he travelled all over Germany, spoke several languages and was open to the different European musical styles. He did not follow the same path as J. S. Bach but claimed to be self taught. Soon after graduating from law school, he turned towards music and became one of the most fashionable musicians in Germany. He was sought after by the towns and courts and was given the best available situations. While in office in Sorau, Leipzig, Eisenach, Frankfurt and Hamburg (where he stayed for 46 years) he radically changed and reorganized the musical world in each town, creating collegium musicums, student orchestras of a very high standard, organizing concerts, composing music for all sorts of occasions. During his lifetime, he was often preferred to Bach.
Telemann was also an accomplished businessman, a practical man, who fulfilled the expections of amateur musicians, the numerous Kenner et Liebhaber in German towns. He targeted their needs and wrote sonatas for the rising bourgeoisie (Der Getreue Musikmeister, Essercizii Musici, Methodische Sonaten,…),fairly easy cantata cycles for poor parishes who could not afford musicians capable of writing music for the whole liturgical year(Harmonischer Gottes- Dienst). For accomplished musicians, he composed more difficult instrumental pieces (Quadri et Nouveaux Quatuors, concerti,..), orchestral music, cantatas and operas. He took an interest in everything and this variety can be found in his chamber music using all the instruments of his time, including hunting horns, chalumeaux and even pan pipes !
Telemann played many instruments, some of which he taught himself.
‘The splendid executants I met here and there gave me the desire to play my own instruments better; but I would have got further in that intention had
a powerful urge not prompted me to familiarize myself not only with the clavier, the violin, and the recorder, but also the oboe, the transverse flute, the chalumeau, the gamba, etc. , right down to the double bass and the Quintposaune.’1
Unlike Bach, he was a master neither of the harpsichord nor the violin, but he had, on the other hand, a real talent for matching original tone colours. He had a special liking for the viol, which was then going out of fashion in most of the European courts.
“Give each instrument what suits it best
And the player will perform it with pleasure, and you will enjoy hearing it…”
These lines in his 1718 autobiography sum up all that composes the quality of Telemann’s chamber music. Each part matches its instrument perfectly and he wrote admirable trios and quartets in original combinations at a time when the trio sonata with two treble instruments was still a dominant form. His avant-garde style placed him at the crossroad between baroque and classicism.
Translation Philippe Bolton
1 Translation by Charles Johnston
Founded by Benjamin Perrot and Florence Bolton, La Rêveuse is an ensemble of solo musicians that works on the heritage of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a period rich in artistic experiments and inventions of all kinds. The ensemble’s recordings have all been acclaimed by French and international critics and have received numerous awards.
La Rêveuse is frequently invited to appear in prestigious venues in France (Auditorium de Radio France, La Folle Journée de Nantes, Les Concerts Parisiens, Fontevraud Abbey, Théâtre de l’Athénée, the Chambord and Radio-France Montpellier festivals, the Scènes Nationales of Orléans, Blois, and Quimper, the TNP de Villeurbanne, etc.) and abroad, notably in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Russia, Japan, the United States and Canada.
Wishing to forge links between the different artistic disciplines, the ensemble often collaborates with the world of the theatre and literature in order to give a new slant to classic texts. Among the notable productions it has premiered are L’Autre Monde ou les États et Empires de la Lune by Cyrano de Bergerac and Les Caractères de La Bruyère with the actor and director Benjamin Lazar, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by Molière/Lully with Catherine Hiegel and François Morel, Molière’s Monsieur de Pourceaugnac with Théâtre de l’Éventail (Raphaël de Angelis) and L’Heure verte, a show focusing on the poets of the Cabaret du Chat Noir, with the composer Vincent Bouchot.
Alongside this, the ensemble has developed over the past few years a series of concert-lectures, aimed at museums and media libraries, which bring out parallels between music and painting of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The ensemble has also invested in knowledge transfer through Les Ateliers de Musique Ancienne (Early Music Workshops), which aim to introduce the music and arts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to a wide audience through a range of activities, including chamber music courses at the Conservatoire d’Orléans, lectures and ‘discovery concerts’.
In 2017 La Rêveuse was awarded the Gold Medal of the Académie Arts-Sciences-Lettres for its overall achievement.