> Telemann - Sinfonia Spirituosa [GPJ]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Georg Philip TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sinfonia Spirituosa in D TWV 44:1 for 2 violins, viola and basso continuo
Overture (Suite) in D TWV 55:D6 for viola da gamba concertata, strings and basso continuo
Concerto in C TWV 40:203 for 4 solo violins
Concerto in A TWV 54:A1 for 4 violins, strings and basso continuo
Concerto in G TWV 40:201 for 4 solo violins
Concerto in A ("Die Relinge") TWV 51:A4 for Violino principale, 3 violins, viola and basso continuo
Concerto in D TWV 40:202 for 4 solo violins
Symphony in D TWV Anh. 50:1 for the centenary of the Hamburg Trade deputation
Jaap ter Linden, viola da gamba
Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel
Recorded Köln, Deutschland Radio, Sendesaal, September and November 2001
ARCHIV 471 492 [74:07]

Telemann is one of those composers who produced such an overwhelming quantity of work that it is very hard to overcome the perception of him as a hack. This recording, however, as with the others by these musicians, is the ideal way of doing so. The performances are full of vigour, imagination and humour. There’s nothing polite about them, and as a result, the music comes up fresh as a daisy, and full of quirks, too. It put me in mind of the crazy world of Zelenka, so many oddities and surprises are there. Another feature of the music is its lack of padding; very often Telemann simply stops rather than extend the music for another minute or two. This can be disconcertingly abrupt, but on the whole represents an attitude of which I approve, i.e. when you’ve said what you have to say, stop. Not all Baroque composers are like this (nor indeed are some more recent ones!).

The very first track, the first movement of the Sinfonia Spirituosa in D, exemplifies the ensemble’s virtues under Reinhard Goebel’s direction. Rhythms have a springy, almost folk-dance feeling to them, and the music has a wonderful swing. In the Largo, the group produces a rich, euphonious sound, while the final Vivace simply buzzes along. The Overture in D that follows features a prominent gamba part, played with panache by Jaap ter Linden. Listen too to the deep plucked sound of the theorbo, a bass lute, in the beautiful Sarabande, another delightful touch.

The three pieces for violin quartet included on the disc – a sonata and two concertos – bring some of Telemann’s most harmonically daring music. The textures are endlessly varied and resourceful too; listen to the Grave of the sonata, with its strange dry accompaniment to the sustained upper lines, or the rustling semiquavers of the Allegro that succeeds it.

The most idiosyncratic pieces on the disc are the last orchestral concerto and symphony. The concerto is titled ‘Die Relinge’, being the German, apparently, for a peculiarly slothful type of toad, which spends the spring and summer sitting in stagnant puddles. Not an especially poetic image for the title of a work, and of course this may well have been an in-joke of some kind between Telemann and his players or employers (similar to Haydn’s in the Farewell Symphony for example). On the other hand, the first movement does contain, after a normal enough start, some quite extraordinary passages based on endless repeated notes, with some very strange twists in the harmony.

The oddest piece of all, though, is the final Symphony, written for the centenary of the Hamburg trade delegation. The three movements are entitled ‘The Old World’, ‘The Middle [or Middle-aged?] World’, and ‘The Young World’, and the extreme brevity of the movements suggests that this was a commission that the composer didn’t take terribly seriously. The old world is represented by a hideously lumbering movement, marked ‘Altdeutsch - ernsthaft – munter’ – old German, earnest, merry. Not sure about the ‘merry’! The middle world takes the form of a short movement in ‘Capellmässig’, (church style), while the finale is a short lively dance movement. All very strange, but lots of fun in these intelligent performances.

The sound that this ensemble produces is wondrous to hear; it’s partly the tuning, which is so extraordinarily ‘spot-on’ that you feel you’ve never heard a D major chord, for example, quite perfectly in tune in your life before. And the recording captures it all superbly – close and intimate, but not artificial. Treat yourself to this – you’ll be very glad you did!

Gwyn Parry-Jones


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