Concerto for Recorder and Flute

Georg Philipp Telemann

Concerto for Recorder and Flute in E minor


About this work

This concerto in four uniquely contrasting movements is more like a series of small tone poems than like a typical Baroque concerto which holds its audience by variations more or less within the same psychic space.

Underscored by slow, drawn out pulses from the strings and continuo (harpsichord), the flute and recorder each unfold the initial undulating and rolling melody in a sad, pleading manner. The recorder then solos on arpeggios to thin, plaintive accompaniment, and is joined by the flute for harmony in thirds. The two soloists then join in a call-and-response type imitation, soon to reunite in the harmony of parallel thirds. This Largo movement then ends on a suspended dominant.

In a flash, the second movement in a bright, fleeting Allegro tempo opens, with its initial wide steps that immediately fly off into on-rushing figures in the strings. When the two soloists join in, the melody is literally like birds in full song and in flight in the high registers, moving swiftly between minor and major modes without giving credence to either mood for long. The thrilling, quickly rotating figures express sheer joy, even with brief descents to play folk-like melodies in slightly slower durations. But the "birds" do not alight for long in the branches, and are soon sailing on the wind and calling to each other. The strings act as commentators, supporters of the action, and become so involved in the faster tempi that they cannot resist imitating it with enthusiastic tremolos towards the end of this movement.

The third movement is again in Largo tempo, but the feeling is pastoral rather than downcast, and primarily in a major mode. Accompanied by sweet pizzicati from the strings, the two soloists constantly intertwine in close counterpoint, rarely parting to imitate or answer each other. This is an ever-unwinding melody that is interrupted only by the strings at the very end with long chords in a semi-cadence.

The concluding Presto movement has the feeling of a Turkish dance, with strident steady accents and whirling middle voices. The flute continues the turning motion while the recorder plays a second theme. The first theme is repeated aggressively. The flute, recorder, and a middle bass range string soloist join in a trio with the flute playing melodic gestures, the recorder in wildly fleeting patterns, and the string in a heavily bowed repeated and crescendoing pattern alternating with sharp accents. The two soloists then extend their parts through rotating patterns which lead back, rondo-like, to the initial theme. The flute and recorder sustain a unison note over several measures before bursting into another country dance-like theme, this time in a major key. The atmosphere is firstly that of a Burgundian bagpipe-drone melody, and then bursts into wild gypsy trills. The theme enters once more in a slightly faster tempo than before to provide a quick and thrilling ending that concludes sharply without an extended chord.