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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Telemann Edition
Full list of contents and performers at end of review
CD-ROM [Booklet notes and sung texts]
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94104 [29 CDs + CD-ROM: c. 29:00:00]

Experience Classicsonline

In its Telemann Edition Brilliant Classics makes available a rich selection of the composer’s important works. The number of pieces and the particular selections provide an excellent image of Telemann’s legacy, while the recordings are among the best currently available. This Telemann Edition should be a cornerstone to any collection of Baroque music.

The four discs devoted to the Tafelmusik cover the four parts of that large set of pieces, as performed by Musica Amphion and led by Pieter-Jan Belder. The clean, crisp sound of these performers supports solid performances, which are uniformly tight in ensemble. The presentation follows the order of the suites, quartets, and concertos as found in the scores, with one disc for each of the four parts. The two discs of trumpet concertos offer a selection from the larger number of pieces Telemann composed in this genre. Those familiar with Brilliant’s set of Telemann’s Concertos will find that this box reproduces two of the four discs released earlier. We get fine interpretations from Otto Sauter, trumpet, and the Kurzpfälzisches Kammerorchester, Mannheim, Nicol Matt, conductor. These make for an effective introduction, with both concertos for solo trumpet, as well as multiple ones. The Hamburger Trauermusik is scored for three trumpets, two oboes, timpani and strings. The Sonata in D for trumpet and strings is an effective shorter work that fits well into this larger selection. These are complemented by two other discs, one devoted to oboe concertos, and another of concertos for “diverse instruments”. This includes several concertos for flute, a concerto for trumpet and two oboes, and the Symphony “El grillo” with its rich use of woodwinds: specifically flute, piccolo oboe, chalumeau and strings.

At the core of the Telemann Edition are the Overtures, that is the orchestral suites. These are presented on eight discs and represent the composer’s major works in the genre. The performances are exclusively by the Collegium Instrumentale Brugense under Patrick Peire. They’re relatively recent recordings made between 2004 and 2008. Some of these works resemble the composer’s concertos, such as the Overture in D for two trumpets, timpani, and strings (TWV55: D18). It is useful to have these performances to supplement the other trumpet concertos and to demonstrate the variety of interpretations of this repertoire. The sometimes restrained trumpet sound in the Overture in D offers a less extroverted approach and yet reflects the demands Telemann made through his close scoring for brass and energetic tempos. The overtures are of interest for the various kinds of pieces that Telemann brought together in these individual works. We hear not just the conventional dances commonly associated with textbook models of the Baroque suite but also various pieces in national styles. For example there’s the polonaise that forms part of the Overture in D “La Gaillarde” (TWV55:D15), a suite that also include the English “Angloise”. The Overture in G “Burlesque de Quixotte” (TWV55:G10) not only calls to mind the novel by Cervantes, but also Telemann’s short opera Don Quichotte, which is performed from time to time. The Overture offers some effective music inspired by popular episodes from the novel, such as the furious movement entitled “Son Attaque des Moulins à Vent” or the “Sanche Panse berne,” a clever character piece which is also based on a dance-form. Here the program that some listeners may associate with Richard Strauss finds expression in the music of the earlier composer’s thoughtful work. Another effective piece included here is the “Ouverture des Nations anciens et moderns” (TWV35:G4), a work that is not unknown, yet this performance merits attention for nuances that bring out differences in rhythm and tempo. These and other suites are worth exploring through the rich selection included. They are an engaging representation of the variety Telemann brought to the form. It’s good that we can now experience this music through the hundreds of suites he composed which are now being released by Brilliant Classics.

In addition to these pieces for relatively large ensembles, the Telemann Edition includes chamber music. There’s a disc devoted to the Fantasias for flute performed by Jed Wentz. Previously released as an individual disc, its inclusion here not only makes these fine pieces available to a wide audience, but also showcases Wentz’s persuasive interpretations. This particular recording has much to commend it with Wentz giving full expression to Telemann’s melodic invention in these unaccompanied pieces. It also captures the range of shadings of timbre in the various Fantasias.

With regard to the other chamber music, the recorder sonatas (CD 18) reflect a further side of Telemann’s legacy. The performances by Ensemble Tripla Concordia are solid in supporting Lorenzo Cavasanti in these familiar pieces. The virtuosic passages are notable for the facility Cavasanti brings to Telemann’s music. The entire effort is nicely rendered in the ensemble playing, which is also a feature of the same performers’ efforts on the flute-based trio-sonatas on the next disc in the collection. Fabio Biondi is the violinist here. Similarly the Paris Quartets (CDs 21-23) are more than respectably represented here with Jed Wentz’s ensemble Musica ad Rhenum. We are offered the entirety of Telemann’s works in this format. Musica ad Rhenum’s playing is distinguished by a fine sense of phrasing. This serves to offset the motor rhythms that propel some of the passages. You can hear this in the first movement of the Concerto Secondo in D (on CD 21). The slow movement that follows is marked by a similar sensitivity to phrase structure. This element emerges in various ways in the final movement and also in the other Paris Quartets including the familiar Sonata Seconda in G minor, which is both fresh and energetic in this reading. Other aspects of Musica ad Rhenum’s recordings bear attention. Take for example the deft intonation in the Second Suite in B minor, with its passages of nicely resounding close scoring.

An important part of Telemann’s legacy is his vocal music, and it is laudable to find a judicious selection in this set. He composed his sacred works around the same time as J. S. Bach, and approached the cantata genre with his own, individual style. The works found here offer a different perspective on the era and also convey a sense of Telemann’s inventiveness in this traditional form. The cantatas for bass performed by Christian Hiltz demonstrate the lyricism which infuses many of these pieces. They deserve to be heard more frequently.

The other works in the Edition include selections from the Harmonisches Gottesdienst, the composer’s set of pieces for specific feasts in the liturgical year. These are akin to the cantata cycles associated with J. S. Bach. Here the cantatas, sung by baritone Klaus Mertens and Il Concertino Köln, offer a vocal timbre similar to that of the bass cantatas. The choral pieces are nicely rendered, with a fine blending of sound that serves the music well.

The largest sacred work featured is the Passions-Oratorium, TV5, no. 2, (CD 8 and 29), Telemann’s setting of the Brockes’ text, and one of six extant passion-settings the composer pursued. The choice of Wolfgang Schäfer’s performance is an excellent one, in that it gives a sense of Telemann’s style in this important genre in Baroque Lutheran music. As such, the lighter sound of the homophonic sections, especially the chorales, offsets the textural difference between chorus and soloists which is in any event minimized to bring the forces together. The somewhat dry acoustic of the recording allows the text to be heard clearly, yet never at the expense of the nicely blended instrumental ensemble.

Telemann’s secular vocal music is represented by one piece, the cantata Ino. As much as it has many good features, the work itself falls short of the quality of other pieces in the Telemann Edition. Those familiar with the efforts of Barbara Schlick and Reinhard Goebel may wish to reacquaint themselves with this recording, though, which dates from 1989. This short piece is complemented by a a deft reading of Telemann’s Ouverture in D.

The Telemann Edition also includes a CD-ROM, which presents notes and texts; the latter an element essential for appreciation of the vocal music. Unfortunately the disc replicates liner-notes found with some of the original recordings and does not include detailed listings for the present box set. This would have been useful in documenting the present collection and would have given a better sense of its range and sweep. Those interested in the details related to each performance must consult the sleeves used for each disc. These also contain the track-listings. More than that, while it is possible to consult the full Brilliant catalog on the CD-ROM, it would have been useful to have a had a comprehensive worklist of Telemann’s oeuvre. The model for this could have been the catalog published by Oxford Music Online. It would certainly have enhanced the entire project. Such an effort could easily have provided links to other Brilliant recordings amongst which you will find some fine performances of Telemann’s work not included here. An example is the three-disc set of cantatas (CD99996). This is a missed opportunity by Brilliant Classics. That said it does not detract unduly from what is overall an excellent selection of Telemann’s music in effective, if not always exemplary performances. It is difficult not to recommend the Telemann Edition enthusiastically on account of the quality of the selections and performances. Of necessity this can only be a portion of Telemann’s large output however the selections are representative and offer solid performances of familiar works. At the same time space is found to include fine readings of pieces that deserve to be heard more often.

James L. Zychowicz

Full list of contents and performers
TAFELMUSIK (complete)
Musica Amphion/Pieter-Jan Belder

Otto Sauter trumpet
Kammerorchester Mannheim/Nicol Matt

Heinz Holliger oboe
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Iona Brown

Jed Wentz traverso
Peter Masseurs trumpet
Musica ad Rhenum
Amsterdam Bach Soloists
Wiener Akademie/Martin Haselböck

Collegium Instrumentale
Brugense/Patrick Peire

Jed Wentz flute

Lorenzo Cavasanti recorder
Ensemble Tripla Concordia

Lorenzo Cavasanti recorder
Alfredo Bernardini oboe
Ensemble Tripla Concordia

Fabio Biondi violin
Lorenzo Cavasanti flute
Ensemble Tripla Concordia

Musica ad Rhenum/Jed Wentz

Christian Hilz bass
Ensemble Cordia/Stefano Veggetti

Ingrid Schmithüsen soprano
Klaus Mertens baritone
Il Concertino Köln

Barbara Schlick soprano
Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel

Barbara Locher soprano
Zeger Vandersteene,
Stefan Dörr tenors
Berthold Possemeyer,
Johan-René Schmidt baritones
Freiburger Vokalensemble
L’Arpa Festante München/Wolfgang Schäfer


























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