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American Record Guide: (03/2020) 
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Reviewer: Michelle Thompson

For all his extraordinary versatility—it’s difficult to think of a contempora-neous genre he didn’t work in—Telemann was never particularly interested in istrumental virtuosity. His sonatas and concertos, while reliably good, rarely aim at exalted technical feats or even at unusual compositional ones. It’s not,  therefore, especially odd to find pockets of instrumental material among his works that remain essentially unexplored, like these six sonatas. They date from 1715, soon after Telemann, following the unexpected death of his young wife after only three years of marriage, relocated from the court of Eisenach to Frank-furt-am-Main. That the stability of a city job struck him as preferable to the whims of a court, however high the quality of its musicians, seems likely; at all events, the composer was hired on the spot and assumed his new duties almost immediately. These six sonatas, for “solo violin, accompanied by the harpsichord”, are among the earliest music written in the new position. Despite the name, these aren’t violin-and-harpsichord sonatas after the manner of Bach’s six, with fully written-out keyboard parts, but sonatas for violin and continuo. For the most part here, that means Torsten Johann on harpsichord and Annekatrin Beller on cello, but sometimes Johann switches to portative organ, and in a few places he is joined by Thomas Boysen on theorbo. In one  movement Boysen plays without Johann, and in another Johann seems to be using a lute-stop on his harpsichord. In 5:I the first half uses organ and theorbo, the repeat harpsichord; in the second half the pattern is reversed. These new continuo combinations all appear, weirdly, only in the last two sonatas of the six. Gottfried von der Goltz is the violinist here, and a most adept one he is, though tending towards the strident end of the historical-violin gamut. There isn’t the easy drawing-out of sound you get from players like Andrew Manze or Rachel Podger or Erich Höbarth; the sound rather appears pressed out, grittily, with a slow-moving bow, and there’s little attempt to use the instrument’s own resonance in aid of a lighter, more flowing kind of production. The intonation, however, is spectacular, and the fast movements— elaborate finger-twisters every one, for all that they seldom leave first position— are brilliantly played. For the tone-production reasons I’ve already mentioned, the slow movements fare less well, and there could be more variety and shape in the simpler, less fiendish material in them than there is. I should note that while all six sonatas have four movements arranged slow-fast-slow-fast, in Sonatas 1, 3, and 4 the movement titles are standard Italian ones (Adagio, Allegro, Largo, Vivace), but in 2, 5, and 6 they are Allemanda, Corrente, Sarabanda, and Giga—the “core” baroque dance suite. For practical purposes, it’s difficult to tell the two forms apart.


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