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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) 
Ouvertures pittoresques 
Ouverture in D for three oboes, strings and basso continuo, TWV55:D15 [22:47]
Ouverture in B flat for strings and basso continuo, TWV55:B5 (‘Völker-Ouvertüre’) [21:59]
Concerto polonois in B flat for strings and basso continuo, TWV43:B3 [8:52]
Concerto polonois in G for strings and basso continuo, TWV43:G7 [8:14]
Ouverture, jointes d’une Suite tragi-comique in D for three trumpets, timpani, strings and basso continuo, TWV55:D22 [14:08]
Arte dei Suonatori/Martin Gester
rec. October 2012, Michal Archaniol Parish Church, Wykroty, Poland.
BIS-SACD-1979 [77:12]

This release has already been admired in Brian Wilson’s 2013/3 Download News page. I have to admit this has become something of an advance resource for us hard-copy disc reviewers, and I always scan it to see what gems are likely to be appearing in the shops. Martin Gester’s ensemble Arte dei Suonatori was likely to have been a draw in any case, with their Handel Twelve Grand Concertos set still a firm favourite in my well-stuffed disused fireplace box-set cavity (see review).
This recording is a little drier than the Handel set, but still with that crisp harpsichord tone varied with the thrum of a baroque guitar or archlute to back up an authentically astringent string sound, and pungent winds in the first and final works on the program. These overture-suites were a useful vehicle for Telemann’s eclectic and entertaining mixture of French and Italian styles and, as is demonstrated in the sprightly central Harlequinade of the Ouverture in D major, for character pieces and musical portraits of one kind or another. The energetic and up-beat nature of this opening work sets us up nicely for the spirit of the whole, with a Menuet sequence which you can imagine being perfectly paced for those fashionable formal dance moves.
The Ouverture in B flat major has a sequence of national ‘portraits’ of nations which includes rhythmic percussion for Les Turcs and slow/fast couplings to depict gravity and youthful liveliness for Les Suisses and Les Portugais. Remarkable bell-like sonorities emerge from and vanish into silence for Les Moscovites, and there are some Hobblers and Runners thrown in for anyone who might have felt left out of this procession of countries. With its percussion and tinkling chimes this piece is the kind of colourful entertainment which might count works like Leopold Mozart’s ‘Toy’ Symphony amongst its descendants.
The two Concertos have folk music elements taken from regions in what today is Poland, with Telemann taking away impressions of the fiddles and bagpipes which he would have heard in the taverns and inns of the area. These mixtures of Court formality and folk-music rhythms and melodic/harmonic shapes make for fascinating listening, and these brief pieces are by no means filler material.
The disc is concluded in rousing style with the timpani and trumpets of the Ouverture, jointes d’une Suite tragi-comique. This is one of Telemann’s later works, and it depicts illnesses and their cures in movements such as L’hypocondre and La podagre or gout sufferer. Much as todays stand-up comedians delight us with their exposure of human weakness and physical fallibility, so Telemann would have made a hit with his witty parodies of the aches, pains and torments of his subject. The naughty Harlequin Painter of the cover for this release reflects just this kind of humour, pricking vanity and pretensions through a kind of satire which would have been perfectly understood by Telemann’s audiences, and still chimes a relevant note today.
As is usual for BIS this is an excellent recording and very stylishly presented with informative notes by Dr Carsten Lange. The performances are also terrific, though not entirely blemish free, with a few palpable grunts, at 0:55 into track 2 and a few more in track 17 for instance, you can gain some impression of the expressive energies Martin Gester seeks to gain and indeed achieves from his musicians. With good stereo and a satisfying spread of sound from the multi-channel 5.0 SACD configuration this release is an excellent all-round production, and it’s also very good for the bloodstream and nervous system.
Dominy Clements