Georg TELEMANN (1681-1767)
The Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments - Volume 3
Concerto in D for 3 Trumpets, 2 Oboes and Timpani, TWV54:D3 [9:33]
Concerto in E minor for Flute and Violin, TWV52:e3 [9:41]
Concerto in D for 3 Horns, TWV54:D2 [9:57]
Concerto in E minor for 2 Oboes, TWV53:e2 [11:31]
Concerto in D for 2 Flutes, TWV54:D1 [21:55]
La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
rec. May 2013 and January 2014, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Cologne
CPO 777 891-2 [63:09]

When the phenomenal range and extent of Telemann’s output was beginning to re-emerge after the Second Word War, when Telemann manuscripts and early editions were being found in the rubble of destroyed German libraries, few could believe that a single composer produced so much material. Cynics explained this away by glibly suggesting that he had written the same piece over and over again, tweaking some ideas, swapping movements around and, most importantly, arranging it for all manner of weird and wonderful instrumental combinations. Musicologists quickly consigned this suggestion to the rubbish heap where it belonged, but the sense that Telemann’s extraordinary fecundity came at the expense of originality and invention has stuck in some quarters. Any lingering doubts, however, must surely be conclusively swept aside by this series from CPO which is currently into its third volume of concertos written for multiple and diverse solo instruments.

There is a theme to this disc, beyond the fact that all five concertos make use of multiple solo instruments, and that theme is indicated by the preponderance of D major concertos here. On May 17, 1716 the birth of Archduke Leopold of Austria was celebrated by a magnificent festival staged in Frankfurt, the climax of which was a performance of Telemann’s Serenata involving over 50 players, and watched by an audience of “many thousands of people” (according to Telemann’s autobiography). Among these were the excellent instrumentalists who had come to Frankfurt following the disbanding of the court orchestra in Berlin, as well as trumpeters and horn players borrowed from the Darmstadt court. With such superb and numerous forces at his disposal Telemann was clearly inspired to stretch his concerto game still further, as well as bring a great deal of festive pomp to the Serenata, opening it with the stirring Concerto in D for 3 Trumpets, Timpani, 2 Oboes, Strings and Continuo. The soloists make the most of the many fanfare figures and celebratory outbursts in this suitably festive performance.

The other concertos on the disc seem to have been written for various players who were in Frankfurt on that occasion. The Concerto in E minor for transverse flute, violin, stings and continuo, is memorable for its deliciously delicate slow movement in which the soloists provide gentle undulations above a pizzicato accompaniment, although the third of its five movements, with some manic violin pyrotechnics from Ingeborg Scheerer, is one of the more dramatic movements on the disc.

Although nominally for three horns, violin, strings and continuo, the D major concerto (TWV54:D2) is more a double concerto for solo violin and horn, with the two other horns adding their voices only in the tutti passages and occasional hunting calls, not least in the finale where they rudely interrupt some agile violin solo passagework. Of interest here are some intriguing harmonic twists and turns from the violin and surprisingly agile moments for the horn in its highest register. If this Concerto was intended, as Wolfgang Hirschmann suggests in his enthusiastic booklet notes, “for a court hunting party”, then the E minor Concerto for 2 oboes, violin, strings and continuo, has an altogether more operatic feel to it, the quasi-vocal qualities of the solo trio highlighted especially in the elegant slow movement. The festive theme returns with the bubbly Concerto in D for 2 transverse flutes, violin, cello, strings and continuo, which includes some ingenious triple echo effects in the first movement and a heartfelt cello solo in the second movement Siciliana which Hirschmann describes as “a dirge lasting more than six minutes, making it probably the longest concerto slow movement in Telemann’s surviving oeuvre”.

The full range and scope of the music contained in these five very different concertos is superbly covered by the 19 instrumentalists of La Stagione Frankfurt, and lovingly shaped by Michael Schneider’s careful direction. The recording is clean, and if at times it lacks the brilliance or presence of some other recordings of early music, it has a naturalness to it which makes for a very satisfying listening experience.

Marc Rochester

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