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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Six Orchestral Suites after Die Kleine Kammermusik 1716

CD 1:
Suite in E Flat Major TWV 55:Es5
Suite in B Flat Major TWV 55:B2
Suite in G Minor TWV 55:g3
CD 2:
Suite in E Minor TWV 55:e6
Suite in G Major TWV 55:G2
Suite in C Minor TWV 55:c3
La Stagione Frankfurt; Michael Schneider (conductor)
rec. 7-11 September 2003, Diffurt, Ev. Kirche St. Bonifatius, Frankfurt, Germany. DDD
CPO 999 994-2 [52í38 + 48í26]


In their versions for solo instrument and basso continuo, these suites are familiar to oboists, violinists and, of course, recorder players, whose repertoire debt to Telemann is immeasurable. I can confirm, as a devotee of the recorder myself, that the suites from Die Kleine Kammermusik are of particular value as their original pitch suits the descant (soprano) recorder. Itís not that there is any shortage of work for that excessively high-pitched instrument, just that the best of Telemannís solo sonatas are for the treble (alto) of the family.

On this CD we have the first recording of Telemannís orchestration of the suites. Given that Telemann was very well acquainted with some of the best players of his day, the oboe is very much to the fore as a solo instrument. The original suites were written as melody line plus figured bass and Telemann retained the top and bottom lines, realising the basso continuo as inner orchestral parts. The repeats are ornamented in the standard baroque manner. While the individual numbers are not titled as dances (allemande, courante, gavotte, etc, unlike Bachís orchestral suites, and many others of the day) but as Arias (with a Preludio for each suite), many of which are in the French fashion. Others are contrapuntal or dances from elsewhere (even one that could pass for a Highland fling!).

In migrating these fairly lightweight sets of tunes to the larger form, Telemann added substance (and about fifty percent to the length) by prefacing each suite with a substantial ouverture in the French style. Of course, we are not talking about suites on the scale of Bachís, neither in size nor seriousness, nor would they been intended to be. The essence of Telemannís music is bourgeois and middle-class, typically written for the amateur. His art as a composer was to compose works playable by a modest performer but which repay the skill brought to them by a virtuoso.

So here we have music that works whether played by a student of the recorder or a baroque orchestra of the quality of La Stagione Frankfurt under Michael Schneiderís capable direction (he is himself a recorder player of distinction). The playing is warm and stylish and is enthusiastically recommended when you feel like easing back into an armchair of baroque easy-listening comfort!

Roger Blackburn

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