Telemann: Melodius Canons & Fantasias

Telemann: Melodius Canons & Fantasias
Elysium Ensemble
Resonus Classics RES10207. 59’13

The Elysium Ensemble are the Australian duo Lucinda Moon, baroque violin, and Greg Dikmans, baroque flute. This recording is part of a historical performance research project aiming to identify neglected or newly discovered chamber music from the Baroque and early-Classical periods, in this case looking at Sonatas from Telemann’s Melodious Canons, composed in Paris. together with three of his solo fantasias dating from his 1728 and 1735 publications in Hamburg.

The XIIX Canons mélodieux ou VI Sonates en duo (‘Melodious Canons’, were published in 1738 during Telemann’s eight-month visit to Paris. They appeared four years after Boismortier’s Six Sonates (Op. 51) for flute and violin which the Elysium Ensemble recorded in 2016 – my review can be found here. It seems that Telemann intended these pieces, and his other Paris publications, for Parisian connoisseurs, who a colleague of his described as people who possess “ … the cultivated ear … with a taste for the delicate … and the musical or 7 noble ear that makes judgments on the basis of theoretical knowledge and reason“.

That target audience is reflected in Telemann’s combination of the earlier Renaissance and Baroque counterpoint technique of canonic writing (where the melodic lines are the same but overlap each other at a predetermined time and pitch) with the emerging Galant style with its focus on simple elegance and an appeal to the emotions. Telemann described canons as able to “produce an effect agreeable to the ear and to delight the intellect … to be compared to individual trees in a great forest.”

As ever with Telemann compositions, however technically accomplished, the music is approachable and attractive, combining simplicity and elegance in true Galant style. The six Sonatas are all in three movements, fast-slow-fast. The key relationships between the outer and inner movements are usually straightforward, although the sixth Sonata contrast outer keys of A minor with a slow movement in B-flat major, a semitone higher. The solo Fantasias for flute or violin are in the Baroque tradition of improvisatory free fantasias.

The programme note by Greg Dikmans describes the background to the music in the context of Telemann’s life and the contemporary references to such performance aspects as tempo, articulation and the French notion of notes inégales, giving a lilt to melodic lines. The performed with a copy of a two-keyed flute by Johann Joachim Quantz (c1740) and a c1700 Italian violin, and play at the French ton de chamber pitch of A=400 Hz.

Their attractive playing is entirely appropriate to the elements of sensitivity that the Galant style demands. Further information, and a link to the CD booklet, can be found here.