Telemann Paris Quartets In Telemanns correspondence in 1717 with the great German composer, theorist and music journalist Mattheson, he admits that he is “a great amateur of French music”. Yet the reality was that like any self-respecting German composer of his time, Georg Phillip Telemann was thoroughly conversant with the stylistic conventions of other European countries and, notably, those of the great rivals from Italy and France.
By the early 1720s Telemann had already displayed a thorough working knowledge of the Italian style of composition in his numerous sonatas and concerti, a style that was to be heard all over Europe. However, until this time the French had managed to maintain certain characteristics of their music; namely the overture and suite together with its wide array of dances. Unlike the Italians who preferred overt displays of virtuosity in chamber music, the French developed the original form of the Sonate en Quatuor with its four closely-knit parts. These were quartets in the real sense of the word, in contrast to the trio sonatas Telemann had been writing until then for the same combination of instruments.
Telemann had demonstrated his exceptional grasp of this form when he published his first set of Paris Quartets in Hamburg in 1730. These were reprinted by Le Clerc in Paris in 1736, and while they were inspired by the French style, the structure of the compositions are more Italian; two concerti, two balletti and two sonatas. Perhaps it was because of the Parisian success of these Quartets that Telemann decided to make a visit to Paris in 1737. He stayed for eight months and whilst there heard a number of his works performed at the public concerts of the Concert Spirituel and met some of the most famous musicians of the day. He heard his first set of quartets performed by the flautist Blavet, violinist Guignon, gambist Forqueray (the Younger) and cellist Edouard. These works became extremely popular and were performed with such extraordinary success in Paris that Telemann was inspired to write a further six Nouveaux Quatuors in 1738.
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