About this work
Telemann wrote several freestanding orchestral suites of character pieces, along the lines of what Rameau and Couperin did on the harpsichord, but his Don Quixote suite is actually drawn from an opera, Don Quixote der Löwenritter, inspired by the famous Cervantes novel. The first movement is a not-quite-conventional French overture. Its opening Largo section, complete with the standard dotted rhythms, includes some comically swooping figures and the ornaments have a strong shuddering effect. The ensuing Allegro fugal section is playful and hyperactive, but hardly engages in serious counterpoint.
Now ensues a series of short movements either illustrating certain Don Quixote adventures or setting particular scenes. The Andantino, "Awakening of Don Quixote," is a brief pastoral piece with light Spanish inflections. Now awake and modestly armed, the Knight of the Mournful Countenance launches a Moderato assault: "His Attack on the Windmills," a spirited rendition of the famous scene in which Quixote believes himself to be charging on a gang of giants.
"Sighs of Love for Princess Aline" is an Andante in which Quixote turns his thoughts to the princess known as Dulcinea, who is actually a peasant girl. Almost every measure of this movement features a two-note, descending "sighing" figure. The next movement introduces the knight's squire; it's an allegro moderato called "Sancho Panza Swindled," an inverse of the Aline movement in that here the principal motif is a humorously rising two-note figure.
Two brief equestrian movements follow: an allegretto called "Rosinante Galloping," a surprisingly graceful but by no means fast minuet depicting Quixote's old steed; the next movement, "The Gallop of Sancho Panza's Mule," is actually the minuet's measured, hesitant trio, followed by a brief repeat of the "Rosinante" music. Finally comes a vivace movement counter-intuitively titled "Don Quixote at Rest," far more of a gallop than what was just heard, and presumably music to accompany Quixote's dreams of great adventure.