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Jacques-Martin HOTTETERRE (1674-1763)
Prélude pour la Flûte à Bec [0:52]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Suite in A minor for Recorder, Strings & Continuo, TWV55:a2 [26:38]
Concerto in C for Recorder, Strings & Continuo, TWV51:C1 [15:35]
Sonata in F for 2 Chalumeaux, Violin & Continuo, TWV43:F2 [12:58]
Concerto di Camera in G minor for Recorder, 2 Violins & Continuo, TWV43:g3 [17:56]
Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini (recorder, tenor chalumeau)
rec. February 2012, March 2013, Church of S Marco, Milan
ALPHA 245 [74:09]

There are likely to be quite a few discs appearing this year marking the 250th anniversary of the death of Georg Philipp Telemann, but I doubt whether any will be better than this and precious few will even begin to equal it in sheer enjoyment value. In a word, this is outstanding. It will more than likely to turn a few heads in the direction of Telemann; still one of the most under-rated composers of the High German Baroque.

Il Giardino Armonico have been around for over 30 years and in that time have amassed a remarkable discography, as consistent in its quality as in the freshness and vitality they bring to the music of the 17th and 18th centuries. Their recordings have been issued on Teldec and Decca, and they have recently moved to Alpha, who are also releasing their recordings on vinyl. Working only from the CD version, I can say the recording itself is pretty special, the sound vibrant and full of detail; Stephen Greenbank reviewing the 2-LP release found the sound there every bit as enticing as I do with this single CD. It even has that “wow” factor; when the recorder breaks into the Menuet of the Suite, its electrifying scales fair take the breath away!

Founder member and Director of Il Giardino Armonico for most of the past 30 years has been Giovanni Antonini, and he takes centre stage here with his astonishing ability not just to direct perceptive and vitally incisive performances, but to multi-instrumentalise. He even gets his brief moment alone with his flute, in a haunting solo Prélude from Hotteterre. But this is a brief taster put in at the very start of the CD as it were to lay a false trail; Telemann’s music is far more vivid, vital and vivacious and a world away from the solemn sobriety of Hotteterre. With the stately tread of the Ouverture from the Suite in A minor we are led into what must be Telemann’s most frequently performed work. Familiarity most certainly does not breed contempt here, for I defy anyone not to be absolutely enchanted by the freshness and tantalising elegance Il Giardino Armonico bring the performance. The real icing on the cake, however, is Antonini himself who is not only a superb virtuoso player and an immensely capable musician, but someone who brings huge amounts of colour, variety and sheer élan to his playing. Articulation is crisp and richly varied, while his ornamentation confidently negotiates that fine line between tasteful and flamboyant.

The C major Concerto is another frequently heard Telemann classic, and here again we have a matchless performance in which the bright, clear and open sound of C major provides Antonini with the opportunity to exhibit the beautifully bright and pure top register of his recorder, not least in the bubbling Minuet. Impeccable in their accompanying role, Il Giardino Armonico bring out a wealth of intricate textural detail to add great depth to Antonini’s graceful presence, even if around 2:30 of the Andante movement he seems to cram in rather too many ornaments for comfort in this evenly-paced account.

The more intimate G minor “Concerto di Camera” is very much a showpiece for the flute, and with the accompaniment of just a pair of violins and continuo, Antonini has the opportunity to indulge in a few more interpretative flights of fancy, all of which exhibit a firm grasp of style mixed with a wonderful fluency of invention, alleviating the somewhat routine sequences of the opening movement.

The real oddity on the disc is the Sonata for two chalumeaux in which Antonini, playing the tenor, is joined by Tindaro Capuano on the alto. The sound is strangely rustic - it’s almost as if we had stumbled across a Tyrolean street band, but one with impeccable technical and musical credentials – and there is something indescribably endearing about these two mid-pitched instruments bubbling away merrily enveloped within the string ensemble. They sound like two love-birds in a bush, and with the recording completely expunging any action noise or other mechanical distractions, we have a sound equally buoyant and arresting. You would have to be a particularly hard-hearted soul to resist the captivating charms of this fabulous CD.
Marc Rochester



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