Kim Clow, my colleague in New York, was recently given a tip off about a manuscript in a rather obscure archive (at least for musicians) in Vienna, which purported to contain a concerto for recorder by Telemann.
That sort of thing is the stuff of legend: of all the “early music” instruments, the recorder is possibly the most widely played, being relatively easily mastered; of all the composers of the baroque who wrote for the instrument, Telemann was undoubtedly king – his solo and trio sonatas are among the most popular pieces in recitals.
So Kim ordered copies of the manuscript and, sure enough, it contains six parts for a three movement concerto in G minor for treble recorder, strings and continuo (there are separate parts for stringed bass and cembalo). The music is catchy and entirely in Telemann’s style. The parts were copied in a hand I recognised from my Fasch research – there is a small collection in the University of Uppsala’s manuscript collection of 18th-century German instrumental music (including three concertos and an incomplete ouverture suite by Fasch), all of which features a distinctive double dot after the final bar of each movement. I’m awaiting feedback from Vienna on the watermarks of the paper used for the “Telemann” concerto to see if that ties in closer with the Uppsala collection.
But what is extraordinary about this manuscript is the fact that the concerto is not the only piece… Just like the Fasch cantata fragment that I blogged about a week or so ago (which I found lurking within materials for a Telemann – or Melchior Hoffman – cantata), it seems not to have drawn anyone’s attention that the Vienna manuscript also includes music for four sonatas for recorder and continuo – three of which are quite clearly labelled “Telemann”. I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that the archive does not specialise in music, so it is entirely possible that the original title-page “Telemann: | Concert-Musik: | flauto, cembalo, violino 1., violino 2., violoncello, Viola | 28 Blatt.” was taken literally. The parts are bound in the order given. Apart from the recorder part (which is longer than the others), each is copied on a landscape piece of paper which has been folded to make four pages, the first movement on one side and the second and third movements on the reverse – this avoids turning a page in the middle of the first movement, but means that when the parts are bound into a single volume, the “last” page comes first in the sequence (it’s the sort of thing you might physically have to do to understand what I mean!), which would be confusing to a non-specialist.
In any case, it seems the sonatas are entirely new discoveries. None of the pieces has been mentioned in the Telemann literature. There is no reason to doubt the attribution of the copyist – the labelling of the Uppsala material has been shown (by comparison with other sources) to have been accurate, and the music is certainly not unworthy of Telemann.
Although I am still desperately working my way through my Handel workload, I hope to have the concerto and the sonatas available by the end of next week so that everyone can enjoy the new discoveries.