Telemann - Vivace (Fantasia No 5)


Unlike Bach, whose family was populated with musicians, Telemann (1681 - 1767) was not born into such a rich heritage.

Even in the late 17th Century music was not considered to be a particularly lucrative career to someone from the middle classes and Telemann's mother tried very hard to dissuade him from studying music.

Telemann, however, was a very precocious boy who had, by the age of 12, written his first opera and later went on to master nine separate instruments, including the organ, on which he was mostly self taught.

He went on to become one of the most prolific of composers and in his own lifetime became very highly regarded.

Pupil Match & Suitability

As far as a two part Baroque piece goes, this is not particularly complex, although it is a reasonably lengthy piece.

It is a great piece to learn in order to encourage clean and clear finger work, and is equally balanced for both hands in this respect.

There is also lots of value in learning to phrase a piece such as this with independence of musical line and consistency of good articulation.

Style & Tempo

This style of keyboard writing mimics the concerto grosso, a style exemplified in works by both Corelli and Telemann.

The principle of concerti grossi was to combine and contrast two different groups of musicians into chorus and a solo sections. The main theme would be stated in the tutti and then various expositions and episodes would follow in the solo sections.

Here is the Allegro to Corelli's 'Christmas' Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.8.

Phrasing & Articulation

Here are a couple of suggestions for phrasing the theme itself:

As discussed elsewhere in e-musicmaestro database, Baroque keyboard articulation derives from string and wind articulations, and, even on the modern piano, should attempt to convey something of these ideas since this makes for more stylish and appropriate playing.

Tone & Texture

There is no necessity to distinguish by different dynamic levels between parts.

It is the articulation and manner of playing which dictates the clarity of the counterpoint; this principle holds good for the piano as well as the harpsichord in this context.


Here is an interesting performance of a different piece by Telemann.

Whilst there is scope for greater subtleties in the playing and refinement of articulation, note the overall freedom with which this young boy plays.

Shoulders and arms have ease of movement and there is no inhibiting stiffness in the wrist.

This enables him to get around the various patterns by moving his hand around the keyboard to readily fit the particular chord shape of the moment.

Whilst this sense of freedom is very good a more consistent and nimble finger technique could enable him to play with even greater economy of movement and this would negate the need to use the arms quite as much to sometimes over emphasize the tone being produced.

The important thing to note is that his technique does allow him to get around the notes with relative ease.


Use of the thumb in Baroque keyboard music was very different from today.

A major influence upon choice of fingering came down to the size of the keyboard itself. The length from front to back of the key was in some instances about half that of a modern piano. Therefore this had an effect upon fingering choice and certainly made for a very different approach to using the thumb.

For today's pianist the thumb is an integral part of finger technique. In this piece there are certain moments where it should be avoided - on account of putting the hand into the wrong position - and one or two places where it will definitely help to set the performer up for a stronger performance.


The single frequent ornament comes in the form of one already fully written out as two demisemiquavers followed by a semiquaver (as in Bars 4 - 6).

This can either be played as written or as an even triplet. The former makes for a snappier interpretation.

One objection to playing it as written would be that in inexperienced hands it might become ugly and awkward whereas the slightly slower triplet could be easier to negotiate and therefore come across more musically and better integrated.

Teaching Strategies

There is scope to have a lot of fun in learning this piece.

The key to learning the piece quickly and making the whole process enjoyable is in working out what the elements of this music consist of.

Whilst the score may look complicated to many a grade 6 student, this is not the case when broken down into the essential musical elements.

It is worth doing a harmonic analysis in which you seek to break down the chord structure to the simplest possible elements such as that suggested here between bars 10 – 17.

Practice Tips

Confidence is usually paramount when it comes to performance.

This cannot suddenly emerge out of nowhere, but has to be built up.

From the outset insist on practice which involves a good confident tone at the expense of tempo. Then insist on consistently correct fingering.


Fluency and accuracy can often be issues in a piece like this.

Often this can be down to practice techniques, or simply not knowing what follows on from a particular point in the piece.

This can be eradicated by careful practice joining one section into another. Start by taking the two bars in question. Then gradually work outwards by starting half a bar sooner and ending half a bar later. This kind of technique is well proven to succeed.

Final Performance

An excellent performance will have verve and character. The textures will be transparent and the mood buoyant and stylish. Articulation will be nicely detailed with a degree of subtlety and the tempo absolutely solid.

A good performance will have a sense of character and clean, well organized articulation. This may well be more of a studied performance than a spontaneous one but it will show light and shade in the phrasing and confident fingerwork, even if just a few slips do creep in.

A sound performance will be rhythmically sound, even if the tempo could have greater vitality. The fingerwork will be well known and there will be a sense of style beginning to emerge, although the playing is likely to be more utilitarian than engaging and bright.

A complete performance

Fantasia No 5 in F major: Vivace, Largo, Vivace da capo -  Peter Ella. 

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