“Barbaric Beauty: Holland Baroque Society Meets Milŏs Valent, Violin” = TELEMANN and 18th-cent. Dance Manuscripts [TrackList below] – Milŏs Valent, violin / Jan Roytka, cimbalom, folk recorders, Armenian duduk, and clarinet / Holland Baroque Society – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 31911, 77:32 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Holland Baroque Society is five years old this year, but the young ensemble (young both individually and collectively) play like seasoned hands and like colleagues of longer acquaintance. One thing that must keep them fresh and engaged is the fact that they invite a succession of guest artists to head their projects. The current project brings Slovakian violinist Milŏs Valent and a program that pairs the music of Georg Philipp Telemann with folk songs and dances from eighteenth-century manuscript collections. What’s the connection?
Throughout his career, Telemann prided himself on his ability to translate the musical styles of other nations such as Italy and France in his compositions. But early in his career, he accepted a position as Kapellmeister at Sorau in western Poland, and this Polish adventure made a lasting impression on him and his music. Not only did he adopt Polish musical influences in his concertos and suites, but he also collected a series of thirty Polish dances that is preserved in the Rostock manuscript. The Polonesie on this program, taken from the Rostock manuscript, represent Telemann working as musicologist, trying to reproduce as authentically as he can (using Western European musical resources) the music of Poles and Moravian Czechs that he heard at Plese and Krakow. Telemann wrote of the music’s “barbaric beauty”; he enthused, “If you were to write down all that was played there, after a week you would have enough ideas for the rest of your life.”
The other music on this disc is taken from manuscripts such as the “Melodiurium” and Collection Uhrovec, which assemble folk songs and dances from Slovakia. This music has a variously exotic, Eastern sound to it, ranging from the stately gently swaying Dance 298 from Collection Uhrovec to the first Two Dances from the Collection A. Szirmay-Keczer and Dance 227 from Collection Uhrovec, which show the clear influence of the music of Ottoman Turkey. In performance, traditional instruments such as the cimbalom and duduk, along with various untuned percussion, give the music some of its exotic flavor, but more so the driving syncopated rhythms, the Gypsy-style accelerandi, and modal harmonies. So it’s fascinating to hear Telemann’s valiant attempts to capture the native qualities of this music using Western musical notation and string instruments associated with Western Classical music of the eighteenth century. As close as Telemann gets to that spirit, of course, his music is only an imperfect simulacrum, but a beautiful and vital one nonetheless.
Bartók was probably not at all derogating the “Hungarian” music of Liszt, Brahms, and other Classical composers when he stated that no composer up to his time had really successfully reproduced the native music of Hungary. Those earlier attempts produced art music, to be valued on its own merits, while what Bartók took down on his gramophone in the villages of Hungary and tried to assimilate in his compositions was the real thing. Just so with Telemann’s eminently likable imitations—maybe it’s not the real thing, but it is art music of a high order. This program will probably give many listeners a new appreciation of Telemann’s craft.
The direction and collaboration of Milŏs Valent and of Slovakian cembalomist Jan Rotyka really have Holland Baroque Society thinking and playing outside the box. But of course the Slovakian musicians have excellent talent to work with. The music-making here seems to me inspired, fully engaged, beautifully adaptable to a language that doesn’t come naturally to classically trained musicians. I confess it took me more than one listening to realize that Telemann’s music is much more than a cultured imitation of what he had heard in Eastern Europe. But then this is a disc you’ll want to listen to, and learn from, repeatedly.
Channel Classics always turns out a quality product, and its use of surround sound techniques is fully state-of-the-art. That said, I wish they would find another recording venue for sessions with Holland Baroque Society. I found their recording of Telemann overtures and concerti (Channel Classics CCS SA 28409) suffered from the same overly bright, overly resonant space, or at least I guess it’s the same (Westvest, a Netherlands church converted into a concert hall). While SACD technology gives the recording a realistic sense of depth and spaciousness, the resonance obscures the placement of individual instruments and tends to homogenize the sound. Channel Classics, I hope you’re listening: these artists deserve the best you’re capable of.
Perpetuum Mobile, Concerto Polonois in G: Dolce, Polonaise in D (Telemann); Dance 90; Polonesie (Telemann); Pode Dworem D 79; Polonesie I, II (Telemann); Melodiarium; Concerto Polonois in B: Largo (Telemann); Melodiurium G 11; Concerto Polonois in G: Allegro (Telemann)
Les Janissaires (Telemann); Nota Kurucz I + II; Zela Trovke
Mourky (Telemann); Alkmaerder Hout, Murky, Overgaan Van Door-Nik ; Les Moscovites (Telemann); Dance 298; Hungaricus 22
Dance 322; Dopschensis; Adagio; Ach Ma Myla Co Myslis; Dance 325; Melodiarium B-14; Hungaricus 35
Hanaquoise (Telemann); Songs: Dalat Mu Dala, Dobras Bila Kdy Te Milovali; Hanac I-II-III, Vivement (Telemann)
Two Dances; En Kitzvo; Two Dances
Marche (Telemann); Verbung per il violino; Ungarici No. 2, 3, 5 Hungarice; Hungaricus 34
Mezzetin en Turc (Telemann); Dance 277; Les Turcs (Telemann)
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