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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



 

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concertos

Concerto in F major for recorder, bassoon, two violins, viola, basso continuo (1)
Concerto for four violins in G major, TWV 40:201 (2)
Overture in F major for two horns, violins, basso continuo, TWV 44:7 (3)
Concerto in B flat major for three oboes, three violins, basso continuo, TWV 44:43 (4)
Frans Brüggen (recorder); Otto Fleischmann (bassoon) (1)
Alice Harnoncourt, Walter Pfeiffer, Peter Schoberwalter, Kurt Theiner (violins) (2)
Hermann Rohrer, Horst Fischer (natural horns) (3)
Jurg Schaeftlein, Karl Gruber, Bernhard Klebel (4) (oboes)
Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Recorded in 1966. No other recording information given.
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 60523-2 [53:50]



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Warner Classics are clearly searching deep into their catalogue for super budget price recordings for their Apex label. With this re-release of a selection of four Telemann concertos Warners are scraping the barrel rather than trawling the depths. These recordings are now almost forty years old, first released back in 1966 which seems an awful long time ago; the last time England won the Soccer World Cup.

A prestigious yearbook of classical reviews rates these performances highly but I am afraid that I cannot agree as the context has changed considerably since 1966. These performances by performers that are largely household names, particularly Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the director and Frans Brüggen on the recorder, were made when period instrument performance was in its infancy. These readings just do not stand up to the specialist period instrument performers of today who have moved forward in technique and interpretation by tremendous leaps and bounds. Contemporary ensembles such as the Venice Baroque Orchestra, Europa Galante, Freiburger Barockorchester, Ensemble Explorations, Florilegium, Concerto Italiano, Berliner Barock Solisten, et al are the new kids on the block and I feel are in a very different league with their late-baroque interpretations.

I am sincerely grateful to these performers and their contemporaries for leading the way as torch-bearers for authentic instrument performances however I found these Telemann readings difficult and frustrating to listen to. Perhaps the best example is to be found in the Overture in F major for two horns, violins and basso continuo where the playing of the two natural horns leaves a lot to be desired especially by today’s high standards. I don’t pretend to be a natural horn player and I do not wish to diminish how difficult the instrument must be to play but the horn players just couldn’t keep up with the technicalities of the score and they sounded woefully out of tune at times. Listening to this work was not a pleasure but an ordeal which often made me cringe. Elsewhere on the recording the performances seemed as dull as ditchwater which is no help to the music as I feel Telemann’s scores often need that extra touch of expression and panache to enliven the proceedings.

These are fine scores by the talented Telemann and the programme is a colourful and varied one too but the performances are now showing their age badly. The sound quality too could be vastly improved upon. The piercing sonics in the higher registers are excessive especially from the recorder and the forte passages often sounded blurred around the edges. This recording has been released several times and by now I’m sure that the owners must have had their money’s worth. One has to be cruel to be kind sometimes and these performances have had their day at the races and now should be retired to pasture.

Michael Cookson



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