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Telemann

Gieb jeden Instrument
das, was es leyden kan,
So hat der Spieler Lust,
du hast Vergnügen dran.
Matching music to the instrument brings pleasure to the players and satisfaction to the composer
T/001

According to his own motto, this amiable composer was concerned to make his music match the instruments he composed for. I can only gauge his success by reference to the recorder, but I'd say he did extremely well.

Georg Philip Telemann used to be just a name to me, one of those composers more or less lumped together under the label North German pre-Bach. My first introduction to his music was stressful but convincing. Imagine the scene … a young eighteen-year old answers a small ad. and goes to try his skills against a stranger. He enters a long, panelled room half-filled by a substantial loom and generally overflowing with examples of a severe and active interest in Morris, Dolmetsch and other giants. A small, white-haired figure stirs in an arm-chair.

"Come in, come in. Shall we start with some Telemann?" The tongue-tied youngster can advance no reason why not. The little old lady hauls out a turned wood music stand probably as old and as certainly as tall as she is, carefully takes a score from the canterbury next to the loom, and announces "I thought we might start with the canonic duets." Youngster, profoundly disconcerted, looks blankly at single line of music and feels like a complete booby.

Be not afeared, gentle reader: things could only get better. The Norn explained the simple principle behind these economically-laid-out duets and soon we were playing away with comfortable fluency, one chasing the other as merrily as jugglers.

Since then I have become acquainted with a great deal more Telemann. His recorder music is just a delight, so well composed for the instrument that it almost forces the fingers to keep up. The flute and recorder concerto is something on my list of unlikely-to-be-realised ambitions: very playable, and such an ear for the fine difference in timbre between the two instruments. Some of his string concerti (viola da gamba, viola, two violas, three violins) were Chris' first introduction to my record collection, and happily he took to them.

Telemann has an ear for sonorities, a memory for snippets of Eastern European folk tunes, and a wicked sense of humour. Try his Alster Overture and prepare for a surprise.