Skip to page content

Music in the Italian style has thus far dominated the program, with examples by two of its leading exponents, Corelli and Vivaldi. Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), working in the north German port city of Hamburg, was more cosmopolitan in his musical outlook, absorbing influences from across Europe into what was one of the most original and imaginative musical voices of the time. Telemann was also extremely well-read - his knowledge of German poetry led to a life-long engagement with word-setting, with the composer continuing to produce vocal masterpieces into his eighties - and his library included Cervantes' Don Quixote, the inspiration for one of those masterpieces, the serenata Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Camacho (Don Quixote at Camacho's Wedding, 1761), as well as the earlier Burlesque de Quixotte.

In the case of the Burlesque, the primary musical influence is French, clear immediately from the construction of the overture, with its slow, dotted-rhythm section contrasted with a spirited allegro. Quixote's awakening is depicted in a bleary-eyed minuet (a courtly dance of French origin), which contrasts nicely with his lively attack on the windmills. Telemann was a master of onomatopoeic writing, as the sighing violins in the next two movements, which depict Quixote's longing for Princess Dulcinea (actually a peasant girl) and Sancho Panza being tossed into the air (for not paying for their stay at an inn), amply demonstrate. The ensuing two movements render into music the tired gait of Quixote's old nag of a horse and the hee-haw of Sancho Panza's donkey. The suite ends with more of Quixote's dreaming, this time of further adventures.

John Mangum is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Program Designer/Annotator.