Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1727)
Quadro in D for 2 Transverse Flutes and 2 Bassoons, TWV43:D2 [8:06]
Trio in d minor for Transverse Flute, Oboe and basso continuo, TWV42:d4 [8:04]
Quadro in F for Oboe, 2 Bassoons and basso continuo (from Sonata a 3 TWV42:F16, reconstructed by Sergio AZZOLINI) [10:16]
Quadro in A for 2 Transverse Flutes and 2 Violoncellos, TWV43:A2 [7:10]
Trio in G for Transverse Flute, Oboe and basso continuo, TWV 42:G13 [6:27]
Sonata in g minor for Oboe and Bassoon, TWV41:g12 [9:46]
Trio in e minor for Transverse Flute, Oboe and basso continuo, TWV42:e9 [6:53]
Quadro in E for 2 Transverse Flutes and 2 Violoncellos, TWV43:E1 [8:31]
Epoca Barocca (Marcello Gatti, Elisa Cozzini (transverse flutes); Alessandro Piqué (oboe); Sergio Azzolini, Al Ikeda (bassoons); Ilze Grudule, Stephanie Meyer (cellos); Matthias Spaeter (archlute); Christophe Lehmann (harpsichord and organ))
rec. Deutschlandfunk Kammersaal, 30 November-3 December 2006. DDD.
CPO 777 441-2 [65:57]

Though I hadn’t encountered them before, Epoca Barocca have made a number of recordings – one for Chandos and five for CPO. Johan van Veen praised their Chandos recording of the music of Hasse for refusing to ‘pump up’ the music to sound more than it is and I found their playing here in Telemann to have exactly that same quality. (CHAN0711 – see review) If that’s what you are looking for, go and buy with confidence.

There is, however, another side to the coin, as is so often the case. I’ve already heard the performances on the new CD characterised on BBC Radio 3 as somewhat bland and understated. Like Odysseus, I’m going to steer my way between the Scylla of recommendation and the Charybdis of criticism with care, but, like that legendary hero, who was shipwrecked in the process, I risk some loss. One of the losses, I think, has to be the idea that Telemann could turn his hand to any medium and produce first-class results. That’s hardly surprising in the case of such a prolific composer, but it does run counter to all my experience, when even music which he labelled Musique de Table can sound far, far better than the mere background for dinner conversation which the label implies.

On this new recording I hear all of the technical skill which Johan van Veen mentions in that Chandos review and, again, in his review of Epoca Barocca in Trios and Sonatas by Christoph Schaffrath (CPO 777 116-2 – see review). What I don’t hear is the power to rise above the ordinary which I find almost universally in Telemann’s other music and I’m inclined to blame the composer rather than the performers. Though I note that rival recordings of individual sonatas on the Lyrichord and Accent labels are a little faster than here – Melomanie take just 7:33 for the Quadro in D, on LEMS8028, against Epoca’s 8:06 – I don’t think that’s the major problem.

All the music here is urbane and charming, with sprightly outer movements and pensive slow movements, and there is variety of instrumentation between the works, but there isn’t much more to it. Maybe on this occasion it might have been better if the Epoca players had done a little pumping to make it sound a little less ephemeral. Actually, despite that Radio 3 comment, I think that they do try to give the music a lift, though not quite as much as Melomanie, who succeed slightly more in catching my interest on that Lyrichord recording. Whatever the case, this CPO CD may be just the thing for playing softly in the background when guests come round.

There is, however, a better option in the form of a new release from Linn Records, entitled Tastes of Europe: Telemann Trios and Quartets. It was recorded in York in March 2010 by Ensemble Meridiana, here making an auspicious recording debut, and the music is a cut above that on the CPO disc, for all that it’s also drawn from TWV42 and TWV43 – either that, or the Meridiana performers make more of it. 60 minutes of sheer delight on CKD368 – SACD or mp3, lossless and 24-bit downloads direct from Linn.

Even better is the fact that there is no overlap between these two recordings, with the Linn featuring TWV42: e11, g5, h6, and TWV43: G6, F3, a3, plus a Trio now known to have been composed not by Telemann but by Pierre Prowo.

Both the Linn and CPO discs are well recorded and come with helpful programme notes – available even with the download in the case of Linn.

Neither of these new recordings would be my chosen entry-point for Telemann. A good place to start would be with the various recordings which Collegium Musicum 90 have made for Chandos – try CHAN0661 and CHAN0547 for starters – or the budget-price Hyperion Helios reissue of the A minor Recorder Suite and other works on CDH55091 (Peter Holstlag and Peter Holman – see my May 2010 Download Roundup).

Those who already know some of Telemann’s larger-scale suites and concertos, and who wish to investigate the Trios and Quartets could do much worse than the Linn recording. To investigate this area of Telemann’s output further, I recommend another CPO recording, Paris Quartets, Volume 1 (777 375-2, with Messrs Holloway, Mortensen, etc. – see review by Glyn Pursglove). There’s no overlap with either of the new recordings, but I’d recommend the new CPO recording only after trying the other two. Subscribers can try both the CPO recordings and the Chandos CDs which I’ve mentioned, from the Naxos Music Library, where you’ll also find the CPO booklet and the other Epoca Barocca recordings for that label. NML also have rival recordings of some of the individual works on the new CPO CD.

Brian Wilson

Pleasant music, well played and recorded, but there are better Telemann pickings to be had.