March 14, 2005

Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM)

(Image courtesy of Goldberg)

Today is the birthday of Georg Philipp Telemann, born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1681. Here is a biographical sketch of his very busy and successful life. Of note is the interesting way in which his life constantly crossed the paths of those of Bach and Handel, both of whom admired his work.

When I was a kid, I didn't much like Telemann's music compared to that of Bach. Part of it was that Telemann's more improvisational style grated on my Bach-inspired notions of what sensible Baroque chamber music should sound like. But I believe that a good deal of my bias was owing to the fact that I only had access to a very few recordings of Telemann's works and those were of rather heavy-handed performances from the 50's and 60's. You can do that to Bach and his music will take it. You can't do that to Telemann - it makes his work unappealing.

I know I will ignite the wrath of a fair portion of the professional musical community by saying so, but it strikes me that not many composers' reputations have benefited from the Period Instrument Movement more than has Telemann's. For one thing, the past forty or fifty years has witnessed a concerted effort to uncover and catalogue his vast output of music, playing (so to speak) right into the hands of Baroque specialists eager for fresh meat. For another, to me his music comes alive when given what one might call the cat-gut treatment. What I remember as plodding and dull now sparkles and soars as it is performed by groups such as Musica Antiqua Koln , Camerata Koln and others. Historically speaking, these people may be completely off-base, as many conventional musicians argue. But if the CD's I have of Telemann's music are wrong, I don't want to be right.

Those of you who play the keyboard may also be interested in this - Telemann's 36 Fantasies for Keyboard. They are very short and easy pieces to play, but are also most satisfying.

Posted by Robert at March 14, 2005 03:48 PM

103.5 played one of the Fantasies yesterday on the way home I believe.

Posted by: Ted at March 15, 2005 06:35 AM
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