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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
12 Fantasias for viola da gamba, TWV 40:26-37 (1735) [79.15]
Robert Smith (viola da gamba)
rec. 2016, St. Hilda’s Church, Sherburn, England
RESONUS RES10195 [79.15]
Lateinisches Magnificat - Latin Sacred Works
Laudate Jehovam omnes gentes (Psalm 117), TVWV 7:25 [5.03]
Allegro da chiesa, TVWV 52c1 [2.06]
(arranged for organ by J. G. Walther)
Deus judicium tuum (Psalm 71/72), TVWV 7:7 [21.44]
Concerto da Chiesa, TVWV 33:2 [9.42]
(arranged for organ by J. G. Walther)
Lateinisches Magnificat, TVWV 9:17 [20.22]
Allabastrina Choir & Consort/Elena Sartori (organ)
rec. 2017, Abbazia Valsenio, Casola Valsenio & Ghilardi organ, Lutheran church, Bolzano, Italy

The Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments - Volume 5
Divertimento in E flat major for 2 horns, 2 flutes, strings & basso, TWV 50:21 [10.21]
Concert à neuf parties for piccolo flute, transverse flute, oboe, chalumeau, strings & 2 double basses, ‘Grillensinfonie’ TWV 50:1 [9.20]
Concerto for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings & basso, TWV 53:g1 [16.31]
Sonata in D major for trumpet, strings & basso, TWV 44:1 [9.07]
Suite-Concerto in F major for solo violin, 2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, 2 horns, timpani, strings & basso, ‘Suitenkonzert’ TWV 51:F4 [24.35]
La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
rec. 2016, Konzerthalle Georg Philipp Telemann, Magdeburg, Germany
CPO 555 082-2 [70.03]

The year 2017 marked 250 years since the death of distinguished late-Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann an anniversary that not surprisingly stimulated a number of new recordings. Telemann might not be acknowledged as a great musical innovator but was certainly most influential, prolific and well esteemed by his world-famous contemporaries Handel and Bach. Born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1681 just four years before Handel and J.S. Bach, Telemann is legendary for the vast quantity of music he produced over 3,000 works.

In a matter of a couple of weeks, these three separate Telemann CDs have arrived for review.

On the first album is Telemann’s collection of 12 Fantasias for viola da gamba solo. Known to have been published in 1735 at Hamburg the set was considered lost until an original print was rediscovered in a private collection at Osnabrück, Lower Saxony as recently as 2015. Soloist Thomas Fritzsch was the first player to perform the set which he recorded the same year on Covellio Classics.

Undoubtedly a significant addition to the viola da gamba’s repertoire, soloist Robert Smith aptly displays the individual personality of each fantasia that are all written in different keys. Playing a 7-string viola da gamba, a Colichon copy made by Pierre Bohr in Milan (2010) strung with gut and period bow, not surprisingly Smith makes light work of the technical issues in a collection designed by Telemann for proficient amateur performers. Impressing with grand gestures is not on Smith’s agenda he plays thoughtfully, communicating the music serenely and with utmost sensitivity. Recorded at St. Hilda’s Church, Sherburn, Smith’s honeyed toned viola da gamba is delightful and beautifully caught by the sound team. Smith’s interesting essay in the booklet provides all the required information, however, there is an error on the back cover of the CD inlay card that gives Telemann’s anniversary in 2016 incorrectly as being his 350th since his death and not his 250th.

Released on Christophorus is the album titled Lateinisches Magnificat - Latin Sacred Works containing 3 sacred works, featuring the Lateinisches Magnificat, separated by a pair of Concerti da Chiesa (Church Concertos) arranged for solo organ by Johann Gottfried Walther.

Of the Lutheran Protestant faith Telemann composed some 1,700 church cantatas with some 1,400 surviving. As one might expect the cantatas are predominantly settings of German texts. He did however write a small number of sacred works with Latin texts. The main work on the set the Lateinisches Magnificat is described here as the “younger brother” of the better known Deutsches Magnificat. In the rococo tradition Telemann’s orchestration is influenced by J.S. Bach’s Magnificat whilst the singing style is more eclectic combining influences of J.S. Bach and Italian composers Pergolesi and Vivaldi, and the French tradition too. Ravenna born conductor Elena Sartori explains that this performance of the Magnificat is the first recording of the complete version. Described by Telemann as “written in the style of a French motet” the Deus judicium tuum, a setting of Psalm 71, stems from his stay in Paris in 1737 with the writing influenced by Lully and Rameau. The score was performed at a Concert Spiritual at the Tuileries, Paris in the presence of the French Royal Family. The shortest choral work here lasting just over 5 minutes is the Laudate Jehovam omnes gentes a setting of Psalm 117. In the notes Elena Sartori makes the stylistic comparison to Mozart, in particular the later masses.

Here Sartori conducts the Allabastrina Choir and Consort comprising of 6 vocal soloists, a 17-strong chorus and an orchestra of 21 players. The chorus is in satisfying voice and the vocal soloists are mostly dependable too although there is some unevenness at times. My highlight is the gloriously performed duet in the Gloria Patri of the Magnificat. With reference to the Consort there is lovely string playing while the overall high standard of the marvellous trumpets is slightly let down by some patchy woodwind playing.

Close and warmly recorded at Abbazia Valsenio, Casola Valsenio during the forte passages there is blurring at the edges of the sound picture. J.G. Wather’s organ arrangements of the Allegro da Chiesa and Concerto da Chiesa are splendidly played by Sartori using the powerful sounding Ghilardi organ of the Lutheran church, Bolzano and benefiting from warm, reasonably close sound. Helpful notes from Sartori and I’m delighted that sung texts are provided in the booklet. I’m disappointed that the soloists in the various movements aren’t identified and there is no information if period or modern instruments are being used, although I suspect the latter. Despite Sartori’s obvious talent and passion the variability of the performances and the over-close sonics prevent me from recommending the release.

There are some real delights to be discovered on this outstanding album Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments volume 5 on CPO a label that has for many years given and continues to give sterling work to Telemann’s cause. Here La Stagione Frankfurt, a period-instrument ensemble founded in 1988, is directed by Michael Schneider an early music specialist. These 5 works: a divertimenti, 3 concerti and a single sonata are written for combinations of solo wind and strings with instruments that include natural trumpets and horns, and woodwind instruments of the time including piccolo flute, transverse flute and chalumeau; the precursor of the modern-day clarinet.

Taking nearly 24 minutes here the most substantial work is the Suite-Concerto in F major for solo violin, 2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, 2 trombe di caccia (horns), timpani, strings and figured basso titled ‘Suitenkonzert’ an appealing 7 movement work that has survived at Dresden in Telemann’s own hand and written around 1750. Making the greatest impression for its instrumental colour is the Concert à neuf parties for piccolo flute, transverse flute, oboe, chalumeau, 2 violins, viola, 2 double basses and figured bass. Named ‘Grillensinfonie’ as the original title ‘Cricket symphony in the Italian, French, English, Scottish and Polish styles’ was crossed out on the score and replaced with Concert à neuf parties. Scored for 9 parts this late-period work, cast in 3 movements, takes just 9 minutes to perform in this performance. Admirable too is the 3 movement Sonata in D major for trumpet, strings and figured bass which despite its title contains elements of the concerto tradition.

Regarding Telemann’s massive output, these works show that prolific doesn’t necessarily mean mediocre. Unwaveringly inventive these 5 grand concertos for mixed instrumental groupings are excellent examples of works of an elevated standard of composition presented beautifully in such outstanding performances. Tellingly directed by Michael Schneider, La Stagione Frankfurt provide eminently stylish and alert playing with beautiful intonation that glows brightly yet avoids expressive excess. Recorded at Konzerthalle Georg Philipp Telemann, Magdeburg the sound is slightly too close and over bright for my taste with the violins bordering on the glassy and the flutes piercing. Written by Telemann specialist Wolfgang Hirschmann the readable and informative booklet essay reflects the quality we have come to expect from the CPO label.

Of the albums reviewed here, it is the 12 Fantasias for Viola da Gamba on Resonus that shines out strongly and the fifth volume of Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments on CPO is splendidly played.

Michael Cookson



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