Telemann viola concerto is
a lovely work, quite well known also to non
viola players, that is to musical lovers, as I discovered very
surprised. Although some players may snob at this concerto as "easy",
it presents some challenges to both students and advanced performers,
in different ways.
It is probably the first viola concerto ever written, composed between
1716 and 1721 and the only Baroque viola concerto. Its composer, Georg
Philip Telemann, was hugely
prolific, one of the most prolific among Baroque composers.
Contemporary of other great composers, he was born
four years before Bach and Handel and died seventeen years
eight after Handel.
This concerto is one of the 125 concertos written by him for one or
more instruments, in addition to hundreds of other instrumental works,
operas and church music.
Telemann also wrote some other works of interest for the viola, something unusual in the Baroque time, when the viola was used only for filling the harmonies. His other viola works are: a Concerto for two violas, the Scherzi Melodichi (a collection of trio sonatas for violin, viola and continuo), Polish dances for two violins and viola, 12 Sonatas playable on the viola or viola da gamba (as it was common at that time) and keyboard; other trios for flute or violin or horn or oboe and viola.
Telemann viola concerto in G major is scored for viola, strings and
continuo (2 violins, viola cello, double bass and harpsichord). It
could even be performed with only the solo viola and a quartet!
In the whole concerto Telemann makes use of the full range of the viola (as it was used at that time), that blends very well with the string orchestra.
The concerto is composed of four movements: Largo, Allegro, Andante and
The short first movement opens with the orchestra introducing a quite solemn theme, then the viola repeats the initial part and enlarges and varies it. Then the viola goes through several keys, accompanied by the orchestra that also dialogues with it, through short theme fragments. After a short cadenza, the movement is concluded by the orchestra.
The second movement is obviously very contrasting in mood, an Allegro with an energetic theme, played by the orchestra, built on an arpeggio and repeated notes. The viola repeats only the head of the theme, leaving the strings to complete it, as they did before. Then the viola performs the whole theme, although "deviating" to C major. After this the viola starts doing more elaboration of the thematic material, that brings the orchestra to play the theme in the key of D major, followed by a display of a series of arpeggios leading to the relative minor. When it seems that the movement has gone back to conclude in the original G major, the viola starts a run of scales followed by even more arpeggios ascending to a high G to finally arrive at the repetition of the theme by the orchestra, exactly as it was exposed at the beginning.
The third movement of
Telemann viola concerto is the
one I find most interesting. It
is a melancholic Andante in e minor
starting in a
way that to me doesn't sound like the beginning of a movement,
rather like the conclusion of a phrase (and in fact the movement later
ends with exactly the same phrase).
The viola then introduces a proper theme, with an interrogative character, to me it seems that the viola is all the time asking questions and the orchestra tries to give some sort of answer. At some point the viola seems to have found an answer to all its questions in the key of G major and the music becomes more relaxed, but only for a short time. Soon there is a new question in the cadenza, leading to the conclusion by the orchestra, as it opened.
The fourth movement is in two
repeats, unlike the previous movements. Its character is the opposite
of the previous one: this is a jolly, confidently
there are no doubts in it.
The orchestra introduces the theme, which is simply a G major chord with cadenza, a descending G major scale and an ascending G major arpeggio. (See? no doubts, we are in G major!) followed by syncopated phrase. The viola takes it and varies it a bit by adding passing notes, to arrive to the theme in D major. A rapid passage by the viola leads to the syncopated second part of the theme and the end of the first half. The head of the theme is announced in D by orchestra, taken by the viola in e minor varying it in other minor keys to a minor. The orchestra continues in the same key, but the viola suddenly turns it into a major, happy key again, which will last to the end after repeating the fast passages seen before, concluding the movement in a robust tutti.
I think you'll agree that Telemann viola concerto is a very joyful and enjoyable piece, that should appear more often in concert programmes.
So if you like it and wish to listen to it on your best quality CD player, click on the picture here below so you can find a few recordings of it.
And for those viola players who'd like to enrich concert programmes by performing Telemann viola concerto, there are several editions to choose from.
Below here are some of them, from a digital version to download, to the Urtext (or original text), to play-along with CD, to versions edited by famous viola players.
Concerto in G Major, TWV 51:G9 (Classical Play-Along
Volume 8). By Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767). Classical Play-Along. Play Along. Soft cover with CD. 9 pages. Published by Hal
Concerto for Viola, Strings and Basso Continuo TWV 51:G9 in G Major
By Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767). Edited by Leonid Leibowitsch.
Viola. Dowani Book/CD. Play Along.
Book with CD.
24 pages. Dowani International #DOW14500. Published by Dowani
in G major for Viola, Strings and Basso continuo By Georg
Philipp Telemann (1681-1767). Edited by Wolfgang Hirschmann. For Viola,
Piano. Solo part and piano reduction;
Edition. TWV 51:G9. Duration 12". Published by Baerenreiter
for Viola in G By Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767).
Arranged by Wolff, Hellmuth Christian (1906-19??), Editor. For strings,
harpsichord in score, solo viola in set. Study Scores. German: Baroque. Set of parts. Duration 11 minutes.
Published by Edwin F. Kalmus (KM.A3267-STP)
Concerto In G - Viola/Piano (Set of performance parts). By
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767). Arranged by William Primrose. For
viola and piano. Baroque. Difficulty: medium. Set of performance parts
(includes separate pull out viola part). Solo part and piano reduction. 20
pages. G. Schirmer #LB1973. Published by G. Schirmer (HL.50481381)
in G major By Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767). Edited
by Milton Katims. For Viola and piano.
Published by International Music
Concerto In G Major (Concerto for Viola) By Georg Philipp
Telemann (1681-1767). Edited by Karl Heinz Fussl. For viola and piano.
Baroque. Difficulty: medium. Set of performance parts (includes
separate pull-out viola part). Solo
part and piano reduction. 20 pages. Published by
Baerenreiter Verlag (BA.BA3712)
... more info