Today, as a follow-up to our discussion on Baroque music (part 1 and part 2 can be found by clicking the links), I thought it would make sense to do a tutorial video on a Baroque composition – specifically, a Telemann Fantasia in G Minor.
This Telemann piece is at around a grade 1 level. It’s actually a smaller part of a larger composition – basically, we’re just going to learn a section from the full fantasia.
In this video, we’ll look at the backstory of the piece, hear it on the piano (sheet music is linked below), and do a quick musical analysis to make it easier to play. Let’s get started!
Sheet Music for Telemann Fantasia in G Minor
Baroque Music Style
First, I want to make a note about Baroque music. As we discussed in the previous videos, it can be exceptionally difficult to play on the piano, mainly because it’s a music style so many of us are unfamiliar with. So I like to very gently ease into Baroque music – there will be plenty of time for hefty Bach tunes later, and Bach is much easier to learn once you’ve got a solid grasp on Baroque music basics.
If you want to get into the nitty gritty of Baroque keyboard music, be sure to check out this video on Baroque keyboard style.
Georg Philipp Telemann
All right, so let’s get into the backstory. Firstly, Telemann was a really cool dude who you don’t hear about as much as Bach or Handel or those other big names in the Baroque world. We’ll have to do a full history video on him at some point.
But he was friends with Bach and Handel (all three were German composers active around the same time), to the extent that Bach even named one of his kids after Telemann (Georg Philipp Telemann, to Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach). And he was quite famous in his heyday. He just doesn’t get as much attention nowadays.
Anyway, he was a songwriting powerhouse and composed more than 3,000 works in his lifetime, though many of those compositions have been lost.
What is a Fantasia?
This particular piece we’re going to look at is a Fantasia, so let’s talk about that for a moment.
Fantasias are cool because it’s a musical style that is more or less formless. There aren’t any strict rules with format (like being binary, changing keys, etc.), and the style itself was born from the art of improvisation (making music up as you go).
On the music cataloging system
This Telemann Fantasia in G minor is TWV 33:17. TWV is simply the common cataloguing system for Telemann. The number “33” means it’s from his 33rd collection (keyboard Fantasias, sonatas and concertos). Every number, instead of being an individual composition like an album, is a collection of a similar genre. So TWV 32 is all his harpsichord suites, TWV 39 is all his lute music, and so on.
So when it’s labeled TWV 33:17, it means that the piece we’re looking at is the 17th composition in that 33rd category.
I think it’s worth talking about catalog systems because sometimes they can be really confusing – especially when they change from composer to composer.
Okay, so let’s talk about one more backstory detail before we get to the piece itself. This piece was written in 1732, toward the end of the Baroque era, when Telemann was in his fifties. It was originally composed for harpsichord – pianos weren’t quite a thing yet – which does influence its interpretation on the keyboard.
For example, we’re not going to play this piece with wild Chopin-like dynamics – we’re going to keep things even, with a few sudden volume changes for drama.
Definitely check out the video to hear what the piece itself sounds like!
So let’s do a quick analysis of this piece. First, all the Italian markings. There isn’t too much, but we do have a tempo marking at the beginning – Allegro moderato. Allegro means fast, and moderato means moderate (which I’m sure you could have guessed), so that means to play this piece moderately fast.
There are also the dynamic markings – mp and mf, for mezzo piano and mezzo forte, or, in English, medium soft and medium loud.
I like to talk about these things right from the beginning because I feel like they’re the most likely to be ignored.
The key signature has two flats. So what this is telling us is that there are two notes that must be played as flats throughout the entire piece. To figure out what those notes are, just look at what lines they’re resting on.
In this piece, it’s a Bb and an Eb. So every B and E you come across must be played as a flat.
But what scale is that based on? Well without taking too much time, the Bb major scale has this key signature. However, every piece is either in a major or minor key, and as you might have gathered from the title of this piece (and the overall tone of it), it isn’t in Bb major. It’s in the key of G minor, which has the same key signature as Bb major. Think of G minor as the evil twin.
More in-depth analysis can be found in the video, to show you visually the different parts.
This piece is a great gateway to Baroque music because it’s not too crazy. As we talked about in the previous Baroque videos, one major feature of the keyboard style is that the left hand and right hand are basically off on their own tracks, completely independent of each other, instead of the more modern chord-melody thing.
In this piece, the lines are independent – I could play each line individually, and both hands do have a tune to them, but the parts aren’t too complex or too different. That’s why I love teaching this songs to grade 1 level students right out of the gates, because it’s a good starting point to branch out from.
That’s all for today’s video – good luck! Baroque music is really rewarding to learn when you know what it’s all about. It’s also great for left hand co-ordination!
If you want to check out the full TWV 33 collection (all 36 pieces), you can check it out on imslp.org.