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Telemann: The Virtuoso Godfather
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)

Concerto à Flauto traverso, Viola di gamba, Fagotto e Cembalo TWV 43:C2 [9:09]
Georg Philip KRESS (1719-1779)

Trio à Flauto traversieur, Viola d’amour col Basso Continuo [7:18]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)

Arioso per il cembalo e violono [6:32]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)

Sonata à Flauto traverso, due Viole di gamba et Cembalo TWV 43:G12 [14:58]
Fünfzehnte und Sechzehnte Lection des Getreuen Music-Meisters, 1728. Viola di Gamba, senza Cembalo TWV 40:1 [10:37]
Georg Philip KRESS (1719-1779)

Trio à Flauto traverso, Viola di gamba e Cembalo [7:35]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)

Fantasia sopra Jesu meines Lebens Leben [6:44]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)

Sonata à 4. Flauto traverso, due Viole di gamba et Cembalo TWV 43:G10 [10:37]
Charivari Agréable: Rachel Moss (baroque flute); Susanne Heinrich (quinton, bass viols); Reiko Ichise (bass viol); Kah-Ming Ng (harpsichord, chamber organ)
rec. St. Andrew’s Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire, 19-21 May 2005
SIGNUM SIGCD086 [73:31]


At first sight, the album’s title may conjure up thoughts of Mario Puzo, Don Vito Corleone or Marlon Brando. Actually, in an oblique kind of way, such associations aren’t entirely irrelevant. Not, of course, in terms of violence and extortion, but in the sense that for musicians too the ‘family’ was a means both of defending oneself and a social structure within and around which careers had to be built. Just as their aristocratic patrons intermarried for reasons of property, social advancement and influence, so the musicians of the baroque era established chains of connection and indebtedness, of favours bestowed and owed, of quasi-dynastic marriages. Telemann was, indeed, godfather (in the Christian sense!) both to C.P.E. Bach and to the far less well-known Georg Philipp Kress. Each of them presumably owed their middle name to Telemann’s presence as a godfather. Given Telemann’s increasing status, his was an important voice to have on one’s side; he could make recommendations for important posts and, more often than not, be listened to. The German-speaking world of court and church was full of actual musical families – the Grauns, the Schildts, the Gebels, the Grafs etc. etc. The Bachs were merely the most famous of many such families. To the advantages accruing from such a ‘natural’ network of blood relationships, one might usefully add some others inherent in having a well-established composer act as godfather to one’s children. Then, of course, there was marriage too, another way of extending the networks of possible influence and benefit – the first marriage of Telemann himself was to Amalie, daughter of Daniel Eberlin, an important musical figure at the court of Eisenach; Buxtehude married the daughter of Franz Tunder, his predecessor as organist and Werkmeister at the Marienkirche in Lübeck. The implications of such matters are touched upon by the contents of this very well programmed CD and by the first of two interesting essays which Kah-Ming Ng contributes to its booklet. It is instructive to be reminded of the complex networks of ‘family’ which played a part in the ‘success’ of any composer of this period.

But this is far more than just a lesson – however useful and interesting – in the sociology of composition in the German baroque. It is also a thoroughly enjoyable CD of intimate and subtle chamber music. Having considered the noun in the CD’s title, it is perhaps proper to glance, at least briefly, at the adjective which qualifies it – "virtuoso". This isn’t really music which demands ostentatious technical brilliance from its performers or, indeed, allows those performers to indulge in dazzling display. But most of it needs – and this is more than a mere truism – to be played really well if there is to be no risk of it sounding a little humdrum. Here the music is played with character and nuance, with both panache and grace, so that it is utterly alive and as remote from the humdrum as it very well might be. In that sense, this is virtuosity.

Kah-Ming Ng is both a scholar and a high-quality performer; he draws some lovely sounds from his 1997 copy (by Andrew Garlick) of a Ruckers instrument of 1638. Rachel Moss is a fluent exponent of the baroque flute (with only a very occasional sudden bulge of sound which can be distracting) and Susanne Heinrich is every bit as accomplished – variously playing 5, 6 and 7 stringed viols – as those who have heard previous recordings by Charivari Agréable will expect; the interplay between Heinrich and the bass viol of Reiko Ichise is a constant delight.

Charivari Agréable have been intelligently flexible in their treatment of the originals. Thus, in Bach’s Arioso, the use of a viol rather than a violin works very well – given what Kah-Ming Ng reasonably describes as its "unattractively low violin part"; it is sensible and effective, too, that the bassoon part in the first of the Telemann quartets should be given to a bass viol. Such decisions work as part of a very sure-footed sense of musical language and idiom.

The Telemann quartets contain many exquisite movements – such as the Largo of TWV 43:C2, the Soave of TWV 43:G12 and the closing Vivace of TWV 43:G10; the

Sonata for unaccompanied gamba does make considerable technical demands on the performer, though it is of its musical cogency and interest that one is made most aware in this fine performance by Susanne Heinrich. C. P. E. Bach is his idiosyncratic self in the Fantasia sopra Jesu meines Lebens Leben and the Arioso per il cembalo is a beautiful piece. By the side of two such masters, the music of Kress makes less of an impression, though he has his moments – I particularly liked the Vivace movement which opens the second of his trios here.

This clearly recorded disc offers a greater variety of texture and instrumental combination than might at first appear. Its well-planned programme is both instructive and full of delights.

Glyn Pursglove


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