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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
Founder Len Mullenger   

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767)
Musique de Table (Tafelmusik) Productions I, II, III (1733) [258.33]
Crispian Steele-Perkins, trumpet; Michael Schmidt-Casdorff, flute;
Ricardo Kanji, flute and recorder; Anette Pape, Ku Ebbinge, oboes;
Whilhelm Bruns, Christoph Moinian, horns; Jacques Ogg, harpsichord.
Lucy van Dael, Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen, Sajuri Yamagata, Gustavo Zazrba, violins;
Staas Sierstra, viola; Riche van der Meer, cello; Anthony Woodrow, violone;
Camerata of the 18th Century, Konrad Hünteler flute and conductor;
Recorded at Kirche an der Märtmannstraße, Dortmund-ApIerbeck, Germany, 1993.
Notes in English, Français, Deutsch. Photo of the artists
MDG GOLD 311 0580-2 [4 CDs: 67.35 + 58.48 + 61.00 + 71.10]

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Comparison recordings

Concentus Musicus Wien/Nicolaus Harnoncourt Teldec (4) 8.35670 ZC 244 688-2

Austian Tonkuenstler Orchestra/Dietfried Bernet (6) Musical Heritage Society LP 629/30, 637/38, 641/42.

Camerata Romana/Eugen Duvier (exc. from Parts I and III only) PILZ 160 162/157

Orchestre de Chambre Jean-François Paillard (exc. from Part II only), Erato ECD 88006

This is, after all, supposed to be a collection, like Bach’s Musical Offering or Orgelbuchlein, just a big book full of stuff to play, to be sampled like a box of chocolates. But the pieces lead so naturally into one another they are almost always played as a set. On those occasions when a selection is played by itself, it is always said to be “from the Tafelmusik”. I’ve loved this music since the first LP release in 1965. It’s always been one of the records I actually played, not just collected. I’m amazed at how many times I’ve put on disk one, intending to listen to a little bit of it and then four hours later taken off disk four (or LP side 6), saying to myself, “Oh, is it over all ready?”

The most remarkable sections are the ends of parts one and two, called Conclusions and they are just that, movements which are brilliant and entertaining. At the same time they convey unmistakably the message that the party is over now, it’s time to go home, in a way the last movement of a Dvořák symphony never manages to do. Telemann was no less daring than Debussy when it came to doing something new.

Gustav Mahler in Vienna programmed the four Bach Overtures as “symphonies”, naturally after fattening up the orchestration a bit. Bach wrote only four. But Telemann is probably the only man who may have written more symphonies than Haydn did (depending, of course, on how many manuscripts were sent to the Dresden library for “safe keeping” during WWII). Telemann, like Haydn, called his symphonies “overtures” and the comparison is thoroughly valid. So, naturally, Tafelmusik has a few “overtures” in it, and some sonatas and some concerti — one of Telemann’s best concerti, in fact, the incredible one for two horns which is less tuneful than the most blunt of Stravinsky, is rhythmically more clumsy than the most awkward Beethoven. But you can’t help humming and dancing along with it.

This music is a little like the best of Mozart’s chamber music in that only people who love it play it at all and because they love it they play it very well. So, all the recordings are good. The Harnoncourt Concentus Musicus recording has their trademark briskness of sound and sharpness of phrasing. For this recording Concentus Musicus is a large ensemble, almost an orchestra, whereas the Camerata sound smaller and closer and give a little more space to the music in the slower sections. The Paillard and Duvier recordings are incomplete, have many virtues including more relaxed tempi, but, in comparison with the best, are very slightly less polished, less confident, and probably no longer in print. If you find them at a good price, they are worth having in addition.

All the soloists on this set are terrific, particularly the violin and the gritty natural horns in the double concerto. The flute, played by the conductor, is good, too, but then the conductor does have other things to do with his hands. The ensemble are remarkable in the way they ornament precisely together and skip, stoop and swirl effortlessly around Telemann’s tricky rhythms. I just wish more of these OI/OPP* people would listen to the gracious, lyrical, Viennese, Bernet recording and slow down and sing a little. Where’s the fire, for God’s sake? The first Conclusion particularly comes across beautifully with just a little Handelian nobilmente, a little more ritardando, a little wistfulness, grace, and calm. After all, Telemann titled the work in French! Hünteler, still a little too fast, does better than anybody else currently in print. If sound quality is taken into fair account, this is surely the best version ever done.

*OI/OPP= Original Instrument, Original Performance Practice. In other words, too gritty and too fast.

Paul Shoemaker 


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