Favourites: Telemann and his Subscribers

Telemann and his Subscribers
Tabea Debus, recorder
TYXart TXA18107. 66’34

Recorder player Tabea Debus is one of the most impressive young musicians of her generation. She has already featured many times in this review website for her CDs and concert performances (see here). Her latest recording is a clever combination of two genuine Telemann pieces for recorder (the Sonata in C, TWV 41:C2 and Concerto in F, TWV 51:F1) forming a sandwich with a filling of four suites of pieces collated and arranged by Tabea Debus from Telemann and three of the composers who subscribed to Telemann’s music publications. Telemann was one of the pioneers of music publishing funded by inviting pre-publication subscriptions – an early form of crowd-funding. Amongst those subscribers were Bach, Handel and Blavet, the three composers whose pieces are collected into suites on this recording.

Playing six different varieties of recorder, Tabea is supported in the Sonatas by Jonathan Rees and Tom Foster on viola da gamba and harpsichord, with Claudia Norz & Henry Tong, violins, and Jordan Brown, viola joining for the Bach and the concluding Telemann Concertos. The two Telemann pieces that top and tail this recording are indicative of his approachable and melodic style, notably in their first movements, Cantabile and Affettuoso. The two suites compiled from pieces by Telemann and Handel reflect the friendship (sharing a passion for gardening) and respect between them, evidenced by the fact that Telemann arranged 12 Handel operas for his Hamburg opera house. The nice pieces in the two suites are drawn from Telemann and Handel operas.

Telemann spent several months in France, where he met Michel Blavet, who possibly became his French agent. The suite of pieces by Blavet and Telemann includes five instrumental pieces from Blavet’s comic opera Le jaloux corrigé and an extract from Telemann’s Flavius Bertaridus. Although they only met when young, Bach and Telemann followed each others’ musical careers. Bach performed many Telemann pieces in the Leipzig Collegium Musicum that Telemann himself had founded before Bach’s time in Leipzig. Tabea Debus brings together instrumental Sinfonias from Bach’s cantatas 35 &156 into a three-movement concerto.

This is an extremely well thought out programme of music that brings together four interlinked composers. The playing of Tabea Debus and her companions is outstanding, with an enticing combination of musical sensitivity and commendably undemonstrative virtuosity. There is a real sense of serving the music, rather than the musicians and I respect that approach to performance. I have no problem with the notion of arranging pieces for different instruments, or ‘borrowing’ music from other composers, something that was very common in earlier musical times. On this recording, it makes for a fascinating collection of pieces, many little-known, arranged in appropriate Baroque sequences.