Violin Concerto in A, “The Frogs,” TWV 51:A4
Georg Philipp Telemann
Telemann’s “Frogs” Concerto has become one of his more popular works, which might have surprised Telemann, who seems never to have tried to shine a spotlight on it. It has survived only in one manuscript now in a university library in Germany.
The Concerto has a lushness it owes to the sheer activity of its seven-part texture: four violin parts, an unusually adventurous viola part, and a cello part that is often independent of the basso continuo. The entrance of the frogs in the first movement – everyone but the continuo becomes a frog at some point – is striking enough, but equally remarkable is what they do once they arrive. The characteristic sequences and chains of suspensions are unmistakable: these frogs are playing Vivaldi, for a while at least.
The most cosmopolitan of composers, Telemann had his own Italian, French, and Polish styles, and could change styles mid-movement like a chameleon changing colors.
The slow movement features another version of the repeated-note frog effect and some passages for two violins over a walking bass that Corelli could have written. The last movement is a minuet, thus exiting both the animal world and the world of concertos, which normally do not contain minuets.