Sunday, June 29, 2014

TELEMANN: Polonaise from "Suite in A Minor For Recorder" at the PROM

OK, students…for those of you who only know chamber music if it's "Bouree" on a flaming Jethro Tull record, listen up. Really. This is NOT going to hurt. Have a listen to what was the 3-minute hit single of a bygone era.

One of my favorite little baroque ditties is "Polonaise," the last movement in Telemannn's "Suite in A Minor for Recorder." It's a bit sad and minor key for flouncing around in lace at a party celebrating the decapitation of Marie Antoinette, but over the years, it was more a dance piece than something to just hear in concert. It was probably in the Top 10 back in 1763, or whenever it was that Casey Kasem first announced it.

"Polonaise," as you must've suspected, has something to do with Poland and mayonaisse. It originated as a dance popular at the annual studniówka (prom) where the idea was to clutch your partner just a little bit, but not dance too close or slow. I'm sure the hall contained tables of refreshments including Polish sausage and mayonaisse, and that with very little coaxing (shoving a sausage in some mayonaisse) a fellow was able to convince a girl on what to do after the dance. How a polonaise differs from a mazurka…I'm not sure, but I think the mazurka is something you do by yourself if you didn't find a girl for a polonaise.

You'll rarely find a delicate little jewel like this containing such dignity and emotion. Consider it part of the soundtrack to some errant episode of "Masterpiece Theater," or one of the less comic moments in Bob Hope's "Monsieur Beaucaire," of which there was about 80 minutes. But do consider it.

Yes, this is from a budget Victrola vinyl, but back in the day, Victrola, Nonesuch and other cheap labels offered excellent chamber music at a nice price. There were (and still are) a lot of brilliant quartets and quintets preserving this kind of thing out of passion over profit. So here's a jaunty little jaunt back to when people first discovered that an attention span for music was limited to three minutes. All they wanted was a catchy little melody the kids could dance to.

Let's Dance! POLONAISE at the PROM

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