Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto di camera for recorder, two violins and bc in g minor (TWV 43,g3) [15:25]
Concerto for recorder, viola da gamba, strings and bc in a minor (TWV 52,a1) [16:06]
Overture for recorder, strings and bc in a minor (TWV 55,a3) [31:47]
Concerto for recorder, transverse flute, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 52,e1) [15:10]
Bolette Roed (recorder) Alexis Kossenko (transverse flute), Reiko Ichise (viola da gamba)
Arte dei Suonatori
rec. 1-4 July, 2015 at the Parish Church of St James the Greater at the Higher Seminary of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Obra, Poland DDD DUX 1245 [78:29]
Ask the average music lover the name of a Danish recorder player and there is a good chance he/she will answer: Michala Petri. For more than 30 years she has made an impressive career as a player on an instrument which was hardly taken seriously until Frans Brüggen showed its true qualities. However, unlike Brüggen, Ms Petri has never played a major role in the revival of baroque music on period instruments, and the main part of her activities has been the performance of contemporary music, including many first performances. Her younger colleague, Bolette Roed, plays modern music as well (review) but is also very active in the early music scene, performing with ensembles on period instruments, such as Concerto Copenhagen and Arte dei Suonatori. With the latter ensemble she recorded "Royal Recorder Concertos" (review) which included various little-known pieces. The second disc with this Polish ensemble is very different: it includes only well-known pieces which are available in several recordings; only the Concerto da camera in g minor is probably a little less known.
From that perspective it is hard to agree with Jakub Puchalski's suggestion in his liner-notes that Telemann is "deeply overshadowed by those who garnered much less fame during his lifetime". Today the German master is one of the most frequently-performed and recorded German baroque composers. His music is often played in Germany but increasingly also elsewhere. The old prejudices against his output - partly due to its huge size - have largely disappeared. There is more or less general agreement that most of his oeuvre is of an excellent quality. The items which are included on the present disc bear witness to that. They also demonstrate his versatility and his skills in mixing various stylistic elements.
The programme opens with the Concerto da camera in g minor for recorder, two violins and bc. It ranks among his quartets for which he was famous. According to Johann Joachim Quantz they were exemplary in their genre. It is notable that the four parts are not treated on equal footing: the recorder acts as a solo instrument and the two violins often play in unison. This explains why in the manuscript this piece has the title of concerto da camera.
The second piece is a double concerto for recorder and viola da gamba. It can be considered a reverence to the past: the heyday of the recorder and the viola da gamba was the 17th century. After the turn of the century they were gradually overshadowed by the transverse flute and the cello respectively. However, most of Telemann's instrumental works were written for amateurs, and among them the recorder and the gamba were still very common. The combination of a wind and a string instrument of different pitch is vintage Telemann. His own skills on both instruments allowed him to explore their specific characteristics. One of the hallmarks of Telemann's compositional style is the inclusion of influences from folk music, especially from Poland and Moravia. It is in particular in the closing movements that Telemann pays tribute to such influences. That is also the case here.
Telemann was a great admirer of the French style. This explains why he composed such a large number of orchestral overtures or suites, inspired by the instrumental suites from operas by Lully as they were performed in France. The basic scoring of such overtures was two oboes, strings and bc but Telemann often derives from this model. Two overtures have a solo part for a single instrument, the recorder and the viola da gamba respectively. That links them to the Italian solo concerto, a genre Telemann embraced only hesitantly. The Overture in a minor is one of Telemann's most popular works, especially as there is not that much recorder repertoire of a concertante character from the 18th century. It opens with a typical French overture with dotted rhythms in the first section which is repeated after a fugato middle section. The second movement is Les Plaisirs, a character piece of the kind which was highly popular in France. It is in particular in the third movement that the recorder player is given the opportunity to show his or her skills. It is called air à l'Italien and its inclusion reflects Telemann's ideal of the goûts réunis, the mixture of French and Italian influences.
The programme closes with another of Telemann's showpieces: the Concerto in e minor for recorder and transverse flute. It is one of his most frequently recorded works. It is in four movements, like the concerto da camera and the Concerto in a minor, in contrast to the Vivaldian three-movement concerto. It is an interesting combination of an 'old-fashioned' and a fashionable instrument. The transverse flute became highly popular among amateurs in the second quarter of the 18th century and was especially suitable for music in a galant idiom. The opening movement is a good example of the elegance and refinement which was highly appreciated in France at the time. The closing movement is very different as here Telemann turns to folk music again.
I have already mentioned that this repertoire is well represented on disc. I am not sure whether this disc is up to the competition. I certainly have enjoyed these performances. Bolette Roed is a fine recorder player and I was happy with the above-mentioned disc with "Royal Recorder Concertos". That included the playing of Arte dei Suonatori, one of the best ensembles of its kind. However, I would prefer a more engaging performance. Ms Roed's playing is relaxed and she produces a beautiful tone. Her ornamentation is technically immaculate and stylish, for instance in the Overture in a minor. However, this music is more theatrical than these performances suggest. There is a lack of tension and contrast; it is all a little too quiet and introverted. If you like that you will certainly enjoy this disc. I personally prefer a more dramatic approach.