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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Chamber Music Treasures from Dresden and Darmstadt
Concerto alla Polonese, TWV 43:G7 (c. 1720) [8.45]
Concerto in D major, TWV deest (c. 1720) [10.13]
Concerto 4 in G major, TWV 43:G8 (1716) [6.11]
Concerto in Bb major, TWV deest (c. 1720) [11.49]
Intrada a Flauto traverso, violino e cembalo in D major, TWV 42:10 (c. 1710-40) [16.41]
Concerto 4 in D minor, TWV 43:d2 (c. 1710-40) [10.21]
Les Esprits Animaux
rec. 2018 Protestantse kerk, Uitwijk, Waardhuizen, The Netherlands
MUSICA FICTA MF8029 [64.13]

The year 2017 marked the 250th anniversary of the death of distinguished late-Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann. Born at Magdeburg, Germany in 1681, just four years before J.S. Bach, Telemann is considered one of the greatest composers of the early 18th century. Legendary for the vast quantity of music he produced, Telemann wrote over 3,000 works. Not surprisingly the period around the time of the anniversary has stimulated a considerable number of Telemann recordings.

Falling into this category is this album titled Chamber Music Treasures from Dresden and Darmstadt. This is the third album from Les Esprits Animaux and is made up of six works by Telemann. Telemann’s prolific output and the problems in attributing certain works certainly leaves scope for first recordings and on this album Les Esprits Animaux include three stated world premiere recordings.

Telemann’s connection with Dresden came about with his association with Johann Georg Pisendel who led the Court Orchestra in Dresden. From around 1720 the Concerto in B flat major, TWV deest is catalogued in the Saxon State and University Library Dresden and the liner notes give this as a premiere recording, its first modern performance. Another two claimed-first-recordings are from Darmstadt works that probably came about owing to Telemann’s relationship with Johann Christoph Graupner, kapellmeister of the Darmstadt court orchestra. The Concerto 4 in G major, TWV 43:G8 is judged a relatively early work from 1716 and the Intrada a flauto traverso, violino e cembalo in D major, TWV 42:10, a work written in the period 1710-40. Of the three remaining scores the best known on this album is the Concerto alla Polonese, TWV 43:G7 written circa 1720; it seems that copies were found both in Dresden and Darmstadt. Also composed around 1720 is the Concerto in D major, TWV deest another work catalogued in the Saxon State and University Library Dresden. The final work on the album, singled out in the notes as a “jewel”, is the Concerto 4 in D minor, TWV 43:d2, dated around 1710-40.

Founded in 2009 Les Esprits Animaux is a Netherlands-based period instrument ensemble. The high quality of the performances is impressive, with Les Esprits Animaux clearly in step with the temperament of these Telemann scores. With Telemann’s broad palette of orchestral colours the ensemble provides warm and expressive playing that is reliably stylish and virtuosic. The unison of the group is gloriously shaped, although this is a collaborative effort from the players as there is no particular director.

Recorded at Protestantse kerk, Uitwijk, Waardhuizen, I find that the sound quality, although entirely acceptable, doesn’t display Les Esprits Animaux at its best. I think the players are rather too closely recorded here, as my preference is for rather more space around the sound picture. In addition, a certain over-brightness seems to rob some instruments of tone colour. I enjoyed reading the helpful booklet essay by Javier Lupiez who was also responsible for editing the scores.

Chamber Music Treasures from Dresden and Darmstadt is a fascinating Telemann album and spiritedly performed by Les Esprits Animaux on period instruments.

Michael Cookson


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