Monday, January 18, 2010

Theme and Variation in Telemann's Fantasia #5

Some notes on Telemann's Fantasia number 5, which will be the next piece I record.

The first movement goes back and forth between an intense, accelerating presto statement in 4/4, and a very lyrical largo in 3/2--the fastest and slowest markings on the metronome. There are 4 measures of presto, then 4 of largo, then 4 presto, then 4 largo, and then there's an 8 measure closing largo section, which essentially repeats a 4 measure pattern. The first presto section is a series of ascending lines where every other note bounces down to an Eb--the line works its way up to the Eb an octave higher. This is followed by a sweet largo which winds its way back down the scale from a Bb down to an F. The same thing happens again; this time a fourth lower--we have a virtually identical presto, only the repeating bass note is a low Bb, followed by the same largo which descends this time from F down to C. The movement ends in a pretty and slow dotted pattern that repeats itself.

The 9/8 in the second movement (Allegro) drives from dotted-quarter-note beats, to a bouncy quarter-eighth-quarter-eighth pattern, to a a straight triplet pattern. This gives us the sense of a growing intensity as Telemann throws more and more notes at us. What Telemann is really doing here is a simple theme and a set of variations. The first 3 measures (ie, the first 9 dotted quarter notes) is his statement, his theme. The next 3 measures (quarter-eighth-quarter-eighth) contains the exact same line with eighth notes bopping in and out at various intervals. And finally, the three measures after that do the same thing only with triplets (not technically triplets, but 3 eighths against a dotted quarter). He plays with his theme using different keys, different octaves, and different flavors of variation throughout the movement. The effect is the forefather of a pattern brass plays know all too well. This is just a condensed version of the exact model we see in the concert brass solos of Jean Baptiste Arban, Herbert Clarke, Simone Mantia, Arthur Pryor, and their ilk. I try to illustrate this in the following video.

[note: I replaced the originally posted file with a youtube embedded version of the same file. The blogspot video was having too many problems. --Jeff 1/31/2010]

And finally, the last movement is also an allegro--this time in 6/8. Whereas the second movement is much more rhythmically driven, this movement feels more melodic. For me the tune evokes a bunch of hunters with horses and hounds riding into the woods to catch a fox. Even though it was written for a flute, it sounds completely natural as a horncall, and (perhaps because I've only played it on a horn and not a flute) it's hard for me to hear it as anything but that.

I'm hoping to get this Fantasia recorded this week.

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