Greg Dikmans

November 18, 2021

Telemann’s Fantasias for Flute

Dear Friends and Music Lovers,

As announced in an earlier post about my recording plans, I will be recording the 12 Fantasias for Flute without bass by Georg Philipp Telemann.

Telemann played the flute (among several other instruments), which explains his understanding of the capabilities of the instrument and his ability to write so idiomatically for it. Flute players regard the Fantasias as some of the best music ever written for solo flute.

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1676)
Below is a link to a video on Youtube of me performing one of the Fantasias in the wonderful acoustic at Newman College Chapel, Melbourne University.

What is a fantasia?

Telemann uses the term in the sense described by J.G. Walther in his Musical Lexicon (1732): 

in a Fantasia ‘one plays what one wills, or composes to please oneself’.

There was a rich tradition of keyboard, lute and guitar fantasias, improvised or improvisatory music, going back to the sixteenth century. 

The flute fantasias continue the tradition of free flights of fancy combined with strict contrapuntal (fugal) writing. Each is in a different key and has a different format. However they all do have a similar overall loose structure: one or more opening movements followed by a dance movement. 

The opening movement(s) tend to be more serious and the concluding dance movements are lighter in character (see below).

Telemann engraved his own music

The self-published 12 Fantasias for Flute without bass (Hamburg, 1727–28) were among Telemann’s first attempts at engraving and as such the technical quality is not high compared to the beautifully engraved scores published in France.

You can see in the image that the notation is readable but quite cramped, probably because Telemann managed to fit each fantasia onto just one page (modern editions use a two-page spread).

Telemann: Fantasia No. 3 in B minor for flute

Telemann’s Fantasia for Flute in B minor

This fantasia has a two-part structure. In the first part you will hear alternating slow (largo — broad) and fast (vivace — jaunty) sections. The vivace sections use free fugato writing: that is, the main theme is repeated a number of times in different related keys. Each statement of the theme is followed by attractive passages that have the flute playing both a melody and an accompanying bass line through the use of many large leaps. This compound-line technique is found throughout the fantasias and is one of the many technical challenges the flute player has to face.

In the second part you will hear a French-style gigue (allegro — cheerful). This light and playful movement also uses the compound-line technique and suits the flute beautifully.

Watch and listen => 
(4 minutes)


Newman College Chapel, Melbourne University


If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions, you can contact me directly at

Best wishes,

Greg Dikmans (Elysium Ensemble)




Elysium Ensemble website:


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