Movement 01: Ouverture
Movement 02: Sarabande: Die schlafende Thetis
Movement 03: Bourrée: Die erwachende Thetis
Movement 04: Loure: Der verliebte Neptunus
Movement 05: Gavotte: Spielende Najaden
Movement 06 & 07: Harlequinade. Der schertzende Tritonus – Der stürmende Aeolus
Movement 06: Harlequinade: Der schertzende Tritonus
Movement 07: Der stürmende Aeolus
Movement 08: Menuet: Der angenehme Zephir
Movement 09: Gigue: Ebb' und Fluth
Movement 10: Canarie: Die lustigen Bots Leute
The day before yesterday … at the Niedern-Baum-Haus, which was altogether beautifully decorated, a splendid jubilee banquet was prepared, to which were invited their magnificences the Burgomasters and the Gentlemen of the Council concerned with the Admiralty and nautical matters, as well as the principal Elders of the City, Councillors and Merchants, together with its Sea Captains, 37 in number, who were entertained most lavishly. At this feast there was sung a very admirable Serenade … in the beautiful composition of Herr Telemann … ships lying offshore did not fail to add to the festivities, some by the firing of cannon, and all by flying pennants and flags …
A few days later the Stats u. Gelehrte Zeitung reported that Telemann had also composed a suite of instrumental pieces, ‘uncommonly well-suited to the occasion’, going on to list the ten movements of the Wassermusik Suite and praising their effectiveness and suitability for the occasion. Telemann’s suite was performed during the banquet as a prelude to the Schöne Composition of the Admiralty Music.
In the ten varied movements Telemann pictured the sea in all its moods and characterized figures from the world of ancient mythology who would have been familiar to any educated seafarer. At the conclusion he also brought matters firmly up to date with more earthly and topical subjects. After an extended two-part Ouverture, which splendidly depicts various faces of the sea in all its moods, we are presented with a series of tableaux. First comes Thetis, mother of Achilles and sea goddess, who is given two movements: she is portrayed gently sleeping in a Sarabande in which two recorders glide over a gentle string accompaniment; and then she is presented, wide awake, in a lively Bourrée. Once again recorders are the predominant colour, this time in a vigorous trio with two bassoons. Neptune, lord of the seas and oceans, is in love, and thus in contemplative mood in his gentle Loure, the orchestral sound coloured by two flutes. The Naiads, water nymphs, appear in a light-hearted Gavotte, with hints that their playfulness could also turn to mischievousness; and Triton, Neptune’s son and also a sea god, though of lesser importance, is pictured in jaunty form in a Harlequinade. In between three repetitions of the main stomping theme come two short episodes where the tune is taken by the bass instruments, with a guitar-like, pizzicato accompaniment provided by the upper strings. With Aeolus, lord of the winds, Telemann is on magnificently blustrous form, violently portraying a stormy ocean. Pleasant Zephir, gentle god of the west wind, redresses the balance, with his agreeable nature portrayed by two high, melodious recorders.
The last two movements bring us back to the Hamburg of real life. The ebb and flow of the tide, portrayed in a Gigue, was important not only to Hamburg’s harbour but also for a more mundane purpose: its rise and fall was the principal device for cleaning out the city’s sewers and drainage canals! The final word goes to the sailors, enjoying a good evening’s entertainment in the quayside taverns. They dance a stomping Canarie before, presumably, staggering off into the night or to the local whorehouses—and maybe, if they are unlucky, finding themselves up in front of the Admiralty authorities on a charge the next morning!
from notes by Robert King © 1997