Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leaps and Bounds in Telemann's Fantasia #3

I think I mentioned Telemann's Fantasia #3 the other day.

That's next up on the Telemann hit parade, and if Life doesn't throw too many surprises and distractions my way, I hope to try to cut a recording this coming weekend.

I'm playing my own transcription of #3. Telemann wrote it in B minor. Alan Raph's edition is a clef tranposition to tenor clef in A minor, and mine is a clef transposition to bass clef in D minor.

I had posted this picture a while back when I first started talking about clef transposition. Number 3 was my example (remember, Raph doesn't use Telemann's numbering). Again, if you look at all three editions (Louise Moyse's on top in Telemann's original key and clef, Raph's on the bottom left and mine on the bottom right), you can see the point, which is that if you cover up the clefs and keys, the three editions look identical.

Anyone who slogged through those earlier posts knows I beat that horse well to death already, so I won't do it again here.

I mentioned previously that this Fantasia has only two movements. Interestingly, both movements are fast ones. Sure, the first movement switches back and forth from slow to fast--it's marked Largo-Vivace-Largo-Vivace--but the Largo sections are really just a tiny introduction and a tiny interlude, making up a mere two measures at the start and then another four measures later on. Not to say that the slow measures are insignificant--they're actually quite beautiful and compelling and they set the stage for the fast measures to come.

One interesting thing about playing this in D minor is that the opening triad of the piece--D-F-A, which is a D minor chord--is identical to the opening triad of the Prelude to Bach's 2nd Cello Suite, a piece I've worked on extensively over many years. It's hard for me to play the beginning of this Fantasia without hearkening back to the Bach.

Often in fast movements, you see things that look like scales, i.e., lines, i.e., runs--strings of notes, often consecutive notes in a scale, going up and down in order. Telemann does little of that in this movement. This vivace is all about jumps and leaps and hops and skips. We hear repeated higher notes against moving lower-note patterns. We hear low note lines against repeated high note patterns. And then we hear lines moving on the top and bottom going back and forth at the same time. Before the second largo we have strings of sixteenth notes jumping up at tenth intervals--a whole bunch of them in a row.

We've certainly seen this technique of jumping up and down through intervals in the other Telemann Fantasias, and it's a very useful technique in a monophonic work. It's a way of tricking the listener into hearing multiple voices. Actually, that's not quite accurate. The listener IS hearing multiple voices in the music. The trick is that the multiple voices trick the listener into filling in some blanks, i.e., implying chords and lines that aren't explicitly written on the score.

The second (or Other) movement in this piece is marked Allegro. While I play it with a similar sense of speed as the Vivace in the first movement. It has a very different feel. While the Vivace barrels forward with hops, skips, and jumps, the Allegro contains much closer notes. This movement is in 6/8 and really moves in clusters of threes. The opening triplets slide down like this (from the original Telemann edition):

Very close little swirls of notes. In fact, this movement is a Gigue, a Baroque jig, and it's very similar to the gigue from another Bach Suite. The 12/8 gigue from Cello Suite #4 bounces close-knit threes in very much the same fashion, with a very similar effect. Here's the opening of the Bach gigue:

Telemann's Allegro goes on with this pattern, but also includes some wide intervals. In fact, we see some groupings of the same 10th intervals we saw in the first movement. Whereas the intervals in the Vivace were written as straight 16-note leaps, the jumps here are bouncy quarter-eighth-quarter-eighths, which gives us that gigue-y feeling.

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