100 Menuets showcase Telemann’s brilliance in miniature

In music, as with most things, quantity doesn’t always equal quality. But sometimes it does. As in the 100 menuets of Georg Philip Telemann. These pieces were published in two collections, titled “Seven times seven plus one Menuet.” The first collection appeared in 1728, the second in 1730. What makes this release so fascinating is what it reveals about the composer. These are brief menuets, between 20-40 measures long. Most are in a very simple two-part form.

And they’re played on the harpsichord. It’s about as basic a piece of music as one could devise. And yet Telemann gives us 100 different compositions.

In these pieces, stripped down to bare essentials, one can hear Telemann’s inventive imagination at work. I wouldn’t necessarily listen to this two-CD set from start to finish in one sitting. But even sampling it in small doses can give you an appreciation for Telemann’s creativity.

Andrea Coen performs to his usual high standards. His previous Telemann recordings establish his expertise. What makes this recording stand out is Coen’s dedication. He takes every one of these 100 menuets seriously. His playing reveals what’s underneath the surface.

Granted, these 100 menuets aren’t Telemann’s greatest works. But they were never meant to be. But Coen gives us reason to take these brief pieces seriously. And when I did, I heard the variety and inventiveness that Telemann even his slightest compositions.

Georg Philipp Teleman: 100 Menuets TWV 34:1-100
Andrea Coen harpsichord
Brilliant Classics 96249
2 CD Set

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