Friday 22 September 2017

Charmingly inventive: Carolyn Sampson & Da Camera in Telemann trio sonatas & cantatas

Da Camera - Emma Murphy, Steven Devine, Susanna Pell
Da Camera - Emma Murphy, Steven Devine, Susanna Pell
Telemann, Bach, Alessandro Scarlatti; Carolyn Sampson, Da Camera; Kings Place
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 20 2017
Star rating: 4.0

Elegant and civilised, Telemann's trio sonatas and sacred solo cantatas

The chamber ensemble Da Camera (Emma Murphy, recorders, Susanna Pell, viols, Steven Devine, harpsichord) was joined by soprano Carolyn Sampson at Kings Place on Wednesday 20 September 2017 for a celebration of all things Telemann. Da Camera performed three of Telemann's trio sonatas, whilst Carolyn Sampson sang two of the cantatas from Telemann's Harmoniscer Gottes-Dienst, 'Lauter Wonne, lauter Freude' and 'Hemmet den Eifer, verbanet die Rache'. Da Camera also played their own arrangement of Bach's Trio Sonata in G from The Organ Sonatas, whilst Carolyn Sampson sang Alessandro Scarlatti's cantata Ardo e'ver per te d'amore.

Carolyn Sampson (Photo Marco Borggreve)
Carolyn Sampson (Photo Marco Borggreve)
Telemann's sheer productiveness can sometimes be a barrier to his work being better known, it is difficult to concentrate on one when you have so many. Da Camera's recent recording of Telemann trio sonatas was a lovely excuse for a concert which wove three of them into the programme, two from Essercizii Musici (1740), Trio Sonata No. 5 in A minor, TWV42:a4 and Trio Sonata No. 10 in D, TWV42:d9, and one from the Darmstadt Manuscript, Trio Sonata in G minor, TWV42:g9.

Essercizii Musici is the last of Telemann's 44 publications, and it combines 12 solo sonatas and 12 trio sonatas, with scoring for six different instruments, violin, flute, viola da gamba, recorder, oboe and harpsichord. Telemann clearly had an eye for the main chance, and published his works for violin, flute, recorder or oboe, to attract a wider market. So Da Camera followed this flexibility and adjusted Trio Sonatas No. 5 & 10 to be for recorder, viola da gamba and harpsichord. The Darmstadt Manuscript on the other hand, has his trio sonatas scored for recorder and treble viol and this is the combination Da Camera used in the Trio Sonata in G minor.

All three are in four movements, slow, fast, slow, fast, and Telemann shows a maximum amount of inventiveness in the way he creates varied textures for the three instruments. One of the fascinating things was hearing the viola da gamba being used as a melody instrument, so that repeatedly we heard some delightful passages where recorder and viola da gamba were in dialogue, swapping musical material. Frequently melodically very appealing, we had perky fast movements and sweetly haunting slow ones, and I was especially struck by the final movement of the Trio Sonata in G minor, which seemed to have elements of a Scottish reel about it. The trio sonatas are also very challenging with all three players having to repeatedly demonstrate nimble fingers, and Da Camera combined dazzling technique with engaging playing.
Telemann's Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst is an annual cycle of 72 church cantatas, each scored for voice, continuo and an obbligato instrument, here played on the recorder. Both cantatas were heard, Lauter Wonne, lauter Freude and Hemmet den Eifer, verbanet die Rache were of the form aria, recitative, aria. In the first, the text compared the joyful bliss in the poet's heart with the hearts full of flames of the sinful. The first aria was a joyful duet with the recorder, and the final one, slow and lyrical but with laughing effects in the voice, with a sober recitative between. The second started joyfully with much burbling delight from recorder and voice, sometimes together in spectacular fashion, and finished in graceful lilting manner. In both, Carolyn Samson sang with charming ease, bringing out the sheer joy in the arias with a more sober touch in the recitative.

We heard one extra Telemann piece, as Stephen Devine played the Fantaisie No. 2in D minor, TWV33:2 for solo harpsichord, one of 36 that Telemann wrote in this form. The name seems to have been his own, and the piece was a simple ABA structure, with the opening Allegro feeling somewhat like an orchestral tutti from an overture, but the middle section was striking indeed with a sudden move to the minor and an improvisatory feel to the writing.

Bach's Organ Sonatas BWV525-530 are usually referred to as trio sonatas because of the three part texture, and Da Camera have taken Bach at his word and arranged the Trio Sonata in G for recorder, treble viol and harpsichord. In three movements, the work started in a jolly fashion but it wasn't without complexity (this is Bach after all). The plangent interchange between the melody instruments in the slow movement developed into something interestingly chromatic, whilst the jolly finale gave s a busy dialogue between viol and recorder.

Alessandro Scarlatti's cantata Ardo e ver, per te d'amore is one of 728, but is unusual in that Scarlatti uses a wind obbligato instrument (rare in Italy at the time). All about the pains of love and jealousy, the piece started with a elegant larghetto aria with a substantial burbling recorder part, which contrasted with Carolyn Sampson's nicely passionate lyricism. Recitative led to the second, and final, aria which was nicely bouncy, celebrating the playful wind with some stunning passagework in the recorder.

This was an elegant and civilised evening, and gave us a chance to appreciate quite how charmingly inventive Telemann could be, though we left with the suspicion that for all his facility, the music rarely touched deeper emotions.

We were sent away with an encore, one of Handel's Neun Deutsche Arien, 'Süsse, Stille', delightfully rendered.

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