Lesson five: three songs by Telemann
Especially in the high Baroque, continuo treatises written for keyboard players advocate the playing of four-part continuo realisations. This is very hard to accomplish on a lute, and also not the best way for a lute to play an accompaniment, as it does not make use of the lute’s stronger points: broken chords, unobtrusive countermelodies and a light texture. But, we should not ignore the prevailing advice of the great composers of the time, and at least try to follow it.
Three songs by Georg Philipp Telemann
One of these great composers was Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), also one of the most prolific composers of his time: with over 2000 known works, he has written more music than Bach and Händel together. His music is of exceptionally high quality. This was a composer who understood his job and studying his compositions will help us to become better musicians. Apart from over 1200 cantatas, 23 passions, 25 operas and more than 1000 instrumental works, Telemann also took the trouble to make a small booklet with exercises in continuo-playing, called Singe-, Spiel- und Generalbaß-Übungen (Hamburg, 1733). And what a joy this booklet is. It contains 48 short continuo songs, with continuo realisations for the right hand written on a separate staff between treble and bass. This is where we find the three parts that together with the bass make the four-part realisations. Every song has a few words about specific points in the continuo, so it is good material for studying high baroque continuo. I have taken the first three songs and made continuo realisations for Baroque lute, trying to incorporate Telemann’s realisations as well as his advice. Instead of four-part textures, however, you will find mostly three-part accompaniments. My continuo realisations are but one of many possible ways of playing these songs, of course, so you are strongly urged to make your own. I must also stress that it is absolutely useless to play only my versions. Without making your own accompaniments, improvising them or writing them out, you will not learn to play your own continuo.
David van Ooijen 2010
This lesson is part of a series that first appeared in Nostalgia, the news letter of the Lute & Early Guitar Society of Japan.