Recorder vs. Flute: Bugs Bunny vs. Daffy Duck? Part 2

A more potent example of the peaceful co-existence of the flute and recorder can be found in Telemann’s famous E Minor concerto for BOTH instruments. Yes, this is perfectly true: Telemann wrote a breathtaking and upbeat concerto showcasing both instruments side-by-side as co-soloists. Just click on the following two videos of Il Giardino Armonico beautifully rendering all four movements:

I first heard of this piece in passing while doing one of my early music research Google searches that I generally do when I am totally bored. Since I at the time had the impression that the two instruments were intense, warring rivals during the Baroque Era, I found it highly fascinating that somebody actually wrote a piece — let alone a concerto — showcasing them side-by-side as co-soloists. Another day, I proceeded to go to YouTube and find some videos of the piece such that I could listen for myself to it. Upon opening up the first featured video — an outstanding, intense, duel-like Spinosi rendition of the 4th movement which has since been removed (DARN!!!!) — I was totally blown away and enthralled to the point that I had to watch the video several times to satisfy myself. Then, on the way to school, I continued to hear it inside my head, and it was not long before I was sending that video to fellow musical colleagues, who were equally surprised as myself to find out that a concerto was written for both flute and recorder.

I proceeded to purchase the Moeck Verlag edition of the piece to play with a flautist friend of mine. In reading the preface to this edition, I stumbled upon the following information:

“The present is one of the few compositions in which the recorder and the few compositions in which the recorder and traverse flute appear together, a manifestation of the transitional phase between the years in which the recorder had been the dominant instrument of the two and those in which the baroque traverse flute attained musical ascendancy. It was seldom that the two instruments were treated as equal partners in baroque chamber music, as in the C Major Trio Sonata by Quantz, for example. Mostly, as in the quartets by Fasch and Telemann, one of the instruments clearly dominates.”

“This double concerto by Telemann is the only known example of the concertante use of both instruments.”

All right; even the preface acknowledges that, in other works containing both instruments, one was treated as more dominating over the other — some evidence towards the rivalry image presented in Part 1 of this post. Looking over both the flute and recorder parts to the Telemann, I further observe that the responsibility of playing the melody line predominantly rests on the recorder, with the flute playing the harmony. Still, Telemann included plenty of passages in which the flute carries the melody and sparkles to its fullest. Overall, despite my small observation above, both instruments are still treated equally in the concerto, sharing the solo parts, often echoing each other’s motives and bringing out the main themes in its glorious strains. To me, this concerto stands as testimony to the peaceful co-existence of both instruments during the Baroque Era, and I often wonder if Telemann deliberately wrote it to emphasize the equality and importance of both instruments when one was in the process of superceding the other.

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