Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Telemann: Concerto in D and Two Overtures

"For some listeners today, Telemann represents all that is boring in Baroque music: a constant patter of mindless musical patterns, churned out ad nauseum.... Classical music stations constantly program Telemann as a pleasantry, or palliative, before or after more demanding fare."*

Ouch. I don't think I'd go quite so far.

Telemann belongs to a group of (sometimes indistinguishable) Baroque-era composers such as Vivaldi, Rameau, Albinoni, Scarlatti and Corelli, Couperin and Purcell. And, certainly, classical music stations love to play this music because the pieces tend to be brief (it's hard to run ads on a radio station if you only play hour-long Mahler symphonies), pleasing to the ear, and yes, even palliative.

Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Concerto in D Major
Overture-Suite in G Minor
Overture-Suite in D Major
Deutsche Grammophon, 1994
But you have to consider classical music in the context of its genre.

Sure, this music is bright and cheery. Yes, it's palliative. It certainly lacks the seriousness and gravitas of a Beethoven or Brahms symphony. But the music is also quite complex and worth several listens just to study out all the complex melodic lines that weave in and out of each composition.

Furthermore, would you ever play a Beethoven symphony for background music in your home? Uh, no. For one thing, you'll find yourself contantly running over to the stereo to turn the volume down or up--there are too many volume changes and climaxes in this kind of a symphonic work for it to serve as background music. In contrast, this Telemann disc plays at an almost constant volume.

Also, it's okay to give your ears a little bit of what I'd call "classical music candy" once in a while. You don't always have to be moved to tears when listening to a CD.

* from The Essential Canon of Classical Music" by David Dubal.

Note: I recommend this book highly, it's an excellent and easy to read reference guide for classical music.

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