Thursday, September 15, 2011

Miles Hoffman: Telemann Concerto for Viola

Miles Hoffman, viola, performs Georg Philipp Telemann's "Concerto in G Major" for Violin and String Orchestra: adante and presto, the last two of the four-movement concerto. The piece dates to between 1716 and 1721, says The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and was first published in 1731. It remained out of  print for two centuries. A late Baroque piece, this is the first known (surviving) concerto for viola, and is still regularly performed today. Miles Hoffman is the violist and artistic director of the American Chamber Players.


Telemann is considered a German Baroque composer of first rank and was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Friedric Handel, although he might not be as famous or well known as them. Although he had positions in Leipzig and Frankfurt-am-main, it is the city of Hamburg, from which he remained from 1721 until his death in 1767, that he established his reputation. It is also during his tenure in Hamburg that his friendship with Handel matured, having met him when they were both young, in 1701.

Georg Philipp Telemann was born  to Heinrich Telemann and Maria Telemann (nee Haltmeier) in Magdeburg, Prussia (now Germany) on March 14, 1861. The city in which they resided was considered an European medieval centre of some prominence. Georg's family were mainly members of the Lutheran church and few were musicians. His father was a deacon of a church and his mother the daughter of a clergyman; the family was considered wealthy. Telemann received a good education and studied law briefly at Leipzig University in 1701.

Having tried to meet his family's obligations, albeit without success, he turned his attention to music, and the world is richer for it. Telemann was a prolific composer, with more than 3,000 pieces to his credit, and as one Baroque music site puts it:

As a composer Telemann was indeed prolific, providing an enormous body of work, both sacred and secular. This included 1,043 church cantatas, and settings of the Passion for each year that he was in Hamburg, 46 in all. In Leipzig he had written operas, and he continued to involve himself in public performances in Hamburg, later taking on additional responsibility as musical director of the Hamburg opera. He was also commercially active in publishing and selling much of the music that he wrote.

A musical form which Telemann practiced with remarkable assiduity was the orchestral suite—the Ouverture and its succession of dance movements, which originated with Lully in France, but which was in fact cultivated almost exclusively by German composers. A contemporary German critic, Johann Adolph Scheibe, even declared in 1745 that Telemann was chiefly responsible for the enormous popularity of the orchestral suite in Germany, having begun by imitating the French style but soon becoming more expert in it than the French themselves. In an autobiographical article written in 1740 Telemann estimated that he had already composed six hundred suites - about a quarter of which have survived, nearly all in manuscript. 

Georg Phillip Telemann [1681-1767]: In his later years, despite failing health, Telemann maintained his good humour, writing in 1762 on the pages of a musical score:"With an ink too thick, with foul pens, with bad sight, in gloomy weather, under a dim lamp I have composed these pages. Do not scold me for it!"
Artistic Credit: Engraving by Georg Lichtensteger, circa 1745.
Source: Wikipedia

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