Georg Friederich HÄNDEL (1685-1759)
Sonata in D minor, HWV 367a [15:07]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sonata in F minor, TWV 41:F1 (1728) [10:27]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Trio Sonata V, BWV 529 [13:30]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Sonata in A minor [8:58]
Sonata C major, TWV 41:C5 (1740) [7:43]
Concordi Musici (Leonard Munsuk Kwon (recorder); Josep Casadellà (bassoon); Cristian Gutierrez (guitar); Eduardo Valorz (harpsichord))
rec. 26-28 April 2011, Classic Mutation, Seoul<

This is the second CD to be passed my way by the young early music ensemble Concordi Musici, the first being a programme on Italian composers (see review). This ensemble appears to have moved its website since then, so here is the new link.
In comparison with the added strings of the earlier album the sound of Concordi Musici is more dominated by Leonard Kwon’s recorder in this instance, but with beautifully intonated and expressively colourful playing this is by no means a criticism. Based on documentary research, the accompaniments in the works by Handel and Telemann include bassoon and guitar. The latter mixes in nicely, adding a warm texture to the plucked strings of the harpsichord, the bassoon a more punchy or pungent variant on the more usual cello of viola da gamba.
As you would expect, Handel’s work is full of melodic grace and enjoyable contrasts, the Italianate influences of Corelli and Scarlatti providing a touch of Mediterranean ease to the general feel of the Sonata in D minor. Telemann was one of the most prolific composers ever, but the high quality of his work is nicely represented in this programme, with the Triste chromatic descending lines which characterise the opening movement of the Sonata in F minor particularly memorable. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Trio Sonata BWV 529 is better known as a work for organ but sounds pretty good here, even though the sequential writing and pedal tones are less idiomatic than with the Telemann and Handel pieces. The harpsichord lines are also less competitive when set against the bassoon and recorded, so that the imitative writing is perhaps a little too widely contrasted in terms of timbre. These comments apply to the outer Allegro movements, though the central Largo is a lovely duo between harpsichord and recorder. Further welcome contrast arrives with the Sonata in A minor for bassoon and harpsichord. The baroque guitar adds further intimacy to the opening Andante, and some finely driven strumming to the faster movements.
There is plenty of opportunity for spectacle in the final work on the programme, Telemann’s extreme changes in tempo in the four sections of the first movement a reflection of techniques which appear in the solo fantasias. This is a work which was originally also for bassoon, but with alternative instrumentation envisaged by the composer - it certainly sounds fine in this performance, which is played with recorder in the solo role throughout despite an indication in the booklet that the 3rd movement was reserved for bassoon.
The recording here has been made in a studio environment rather than a church, and I would suspect that the sound has been touched up with a little extra added resonance. If this is the case it has been done with tasteful subtlety and doesn’t sound artificial. The wind instruments are recorded closely, and with wide stereo separation of the bassoon and recorder you can’t really call this a concert-hall perspective. When playing this at low volume I would have argued for the harpsichord having marginally more presence in general, but with higher volume this sensation seems to correct itself. In any case the sound is of excellent quality and well integrated on the whole, and the whole experience is easy on the ears. This is a very fine programme of well prepared and researched baroque chamber music played by a highly talented bunch of musicians, and as such will get my vote every time.

Dominy Clements 

Intriguing timbres, nice recording and presentation.