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At some time during the 1720s
Georg Philipp Telemann published a set of 12 fantasias for solo flute,
probably as part of some entrepreneurial push to provide music for an
instrument whose popularity among the intelligentsia was on the increase.
Unlike the violin, where a variety of effects including chords can be
played, lending depth and texture to a solo composition, the flute is rather
more limited. The Baroque instrument had to rely upon a certain sense of
flexibility in terms of notation, the so-called notes inégales, to define a
polyphonic character to an essentially monophonic line, and both registral
displacement as well as alternative fingerings serve to differentiate the
various tone colors of the instrument.
In these works, Telemann also explores the use of keys to create variety, and while one might be tempted (as the flautist Lazarevitch does in his explanatory notes) to define this as a sort of pedagogical tool, the music itself strays from the strictly didactic into a means of defining what might best work for the flute of Telemann’s time. Then, the instrument had a weak lower register, a soft, yet pliable middle, and a sometimes shrill (and overblown) upper, which meant that the highs and lows of each key contained sweet spots and moments of tonal limitation. This also affects what sorts of music could be written for it, and it is not surprising that in the more limited areas, Telemann chose to simplify the overall fantasia format. The A-Major begins with what sounds like a pastoral call before some registral displacements and a limited lower range. The faster section is a series of short lyrical sections spun out without expansive range variation. The D-Major hits the lowest note of the Baroque flute in a lengthened manner that sounds like a resonant horn, but the dotted French rhythms give it a rocking motion. The Presto rolls right along, but the return of the “alla Francese” makes the fantasia solo a French overture. Perhaps the most Bachian of the bunch is the F♯-Minor Fantasia, where the line wanders with a plethora of spun-out motives and harmonic twists that remind one of the Bach cello suites. In the final faster section, the ornamentation disguises the limitations imposed on the instrument by the key. But the G-Major work begins with a lively set of highly virtuoso motivic variations that soon dissipate into a brief Adagio transition over to what sounds like a hornpipe, before finishing off with a jolly dance. It is rather a sonata in miniature. One could go on, but suffice it to say that this set is a well-written and comprehensive compendium that takes the flute through some rather wide-ranging paces.
performs this with an astonishing range of effects. The low notes have a
particularly sonorous resonance, in some instances like a distant horn. His
upper registers are secure and clear, while the various middle ones have a
nice depth of instrumental emotion attached. In short, these fantasias are
brought to life under his finely nuanced playing. My only quibble is that
the sound is quite echoey, sounding as if it was recorded with too much
reverb in a large, too live room. While this does bring out the sound of the
instrument at times, it can be disturbing. Nonetheless, one has here a set
of well-played and musically interesting works that demonstrate yet again
the versatility of Telemann’s muse.
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