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George Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Overture for 2 horns, 2 oboes, bassoon and strings in F major TWV55:F3 [24:06]
Violin Concerto in A minor TWV51:a1 [7:16]
Concerto for flute and strings in D major TWV51:D1 [16:15]
Concerto for flute, violin and strings in E minor TWV52:e3 [9:24]
Concerto for flute and strings in D major TWV51:D2 [12:49]
Les Ambassadeurs/Alexis Kossenko (director/flute)
Zefira Valova (violin)
rec. Temple St Marcel, Paris, 2014
ALPHA 200 [70:23]

The booklet discusses Telemann's quite recent re-emergence as a major figure of the Baroque period and goes on to emphasize the quality of the music on this CD. Telemann has lost out first to Bach and Handel and more recently to Vivaldi. In his day he was very highly rated and indeed celebrated Europe-wide, more so than J.S. Bach. Apart from being successful, he was a skilled marketeer for his music, even adopting the anagramatic pseudonym Melante to encourage purchasers in search of Italianate music to buy his compositions. The Violin Concerto recorded here is an example. The argument advanced to justify Telemann's comparative neglect since is the same as that used against Vivaldi: how can a man who wrote so much music hold to any sort of high standard? By avoiding playing his music anyone can subscribe to this opinion. The sterling efforts of Caro Mitis to record a prize-winning series of what they describe as his 'Complete Orchestral Suites' — complete only in terms of those that have survived - some few dozen out of possibly 200 — finally settled matters in Telemann's favour. His music is as varied and imaginative as that of the other great Baroque composers named above. Caros Mitis and their superb period orchestra Pratum Integrum seem to have dropped by the wayside far short of completion and nothing new has appeared since 2011. This is a pity because their magnificent SACDs really set the standard. I was pleased therefore to discover that the Overture-Suite TWV55:F3 recorded here was not in the Caro Mitis cycle so far, making the first 24 minutes of this CD worth buying for that reason alone. It was easy to look at the remaining works as somehow lesser creations. Flute concertos, even those by Mozart, are not generally worth more than a cursory listen — Nielsen excluded. I am happy to eat my words for these three involving flute — they are tuneful, even soulful at times, and very engaging listening, as is the short but very sweet violin concerto.

Les Ambassadeurs are appropriately named for they are indeed excellent ambassadors for Telemann, fully the equal of Pratum Integrum, playing with drive and skill under their flautist director Alexis Kossenko. The picture of a smiling group of mostly young musicians encourages confidence, even though the photo includes some instrumentalists clearly not on this disc and excludes the astonishing horn players who display a fearless virtuosity in TWV55:F3. The note has much on the corno da caccia and what is correctly, but amusingly, described as 'the traditions of venery' to make up for the missing photos. This selection of pieces were all held in the Darmstadt library and that is the reason offered for recording them together. I cannot praise this lovely disc highly enough both to those who know Telemann and those still in doubt.

Dave Billinge



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