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The Godfather: Masters of the German & Italian Baroque
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto in D, TWV54:D3 [11:16]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)
Concerto movement in a minor [4:18]
Concerto movement in E-flat, Jung II:1 [6:13]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto movement in D, BWV1045 [6:31]
Giuseppe Antonio BRESCIANELLO (c.1690-1758)
Concerto in B-flat [12:06]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto movement in B-flat, RV745 [3:52]
Concerto in A, RV158 [8:29]
Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758)
Concerto in D, FWV L:D3 [11:23]
La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)
rec. 2019, Cedars Hall, Wells Cathedral School, UK

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681–1767)
The Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments, Volume VI
Sinfonia Melodica in C for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings & bc, TWV50:2 [9:52]
Concerto in E-flat for 2 horns, 2 violins, strings & bc, TWV54:Es1 (from Musique de table) [15:00]
Concerto (Septet) in B-flat for 3 oboes, 3 violins & bc, TWV44:43 [9:35]
Concerto (Sonata) in e minor for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings & bc, TWV50:4 [12:52]
Concerto A for flute, violin, violoncello, strings & bc, TWV53: A2 (from Musique de table) [25:40]
La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
rec. 2018, Deutschland Kammermusiksaal
CPO 555239-2 [73:13]

Some series there are which get things so consistently right that after five releases it’s very difficult to say anything new about them. Such were the Bach cantata recordings of Masaaki Suzuki (BIS) and John Eliot Gardiner (DG and SDG) and such are the continuing series of Palestrina’s music from The Sixteen (most recently Volume 8, Coro, COR16175, reviewed in my Autumn 2019/2 round-up) and The Tallis Scholars’ recordings of the music of Josquin (most recently the Missa Mater Patris and Bauldeweyn? Missa Da Pacem, CDGIM052 - review pending).

Such, too, are La Serenissima’s several recordings of the music of the Italian Golden Age and La Stagione’s now concluded series of Telemann’s ‘Grand’ Concertos. The only difference is that La Serenissima have changed labels, from Avie to Signum, while Michael Schneider’s team continue to work for CPO, who must have done more for Telemann than any other label (ever?), with La Stagione major contributors.

Every recording from La Serenissima that has come my way has tested my vocabulary for new things to say. Most recently, the only reservation that occurred to me in reviewing Vivaldi x2 was the rather odd double image of a Fiat 500 on the cover; otherwise I thought it ‘Serenissima indeed’ (AV2392 – review). Michael Cookson thought it ‘a sure-fire winner’ – review – and Dave Billinge awarded ‘Recording of the Month’ status – review.

Signum run the risk of confusing us: they already had a recording entitled Telemann: The Virtuoso Godfather (SIGCD086 – review) and BIS have one entitled The Father, the Son and the Godfather (BIS-1895 – review). Telemann’s music features in all three: with his godsons Kress and CPE Bach on the earlier Signum and with JS and CPE Bach on BIS. The net is cast a little wider for La Serenissima’s new recording but the concept of a connection, in this case from Vivaldi via Pisendel in Dresden, for whom Vivaldi composed, to Telemann, Bach and Fasch, is maintained.

Telemann is again the central figure on the new release. Though he asserted that French music was the main influence on him, this album reminds us that he was also open to that of Italy in his later works. The notes surmise that it was his friend Pisendel, a former student of Torelli and Vivaldi who commissioned music from the latter, who chiefly influenced him. With Bach’s friendship with Pisendel and Telemann, the latter the godfather of Fasch, the circle is completed.

With plenty of music by Vivaldi on offer on this ensemble’s earlier recordings, just two short works are included here. The string concerto, RV158, sometimes known as ‘concerto ripieno’, features on a 4-CD Brilliant Classics set of the string concertos and sinfonias from L’Archicembalo which I recently reviewed (95835). La Serenissima take it a mite more slowly and, though I enjoyed the Brilliant collection – an excellent bargain – Adrian Chandler and his team make an even stronger case. I just wondered why they didn’t choose one of the concertos which Vivaldi wrote for Pisendel to play in Dresden, but there’s ample opportunity to hear these, not least on four Naxos CDs from Accademia i Filarmonici and Alberto Martini (8.553792, 8.553793, 8.553860 and 8.554310), with a shorter selection from the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (Naïve OP30283 – review; download only).

La Serenissima’s undoubted expertise in Vivaldi is now equalled by their Telemann. The opening Concerto in D has been recorded several times with distinction: not least by the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin (Telemann Concerti per molti stromenti, Harmonia Mundi HMM902261: Recording of the Month – review review), by La Stagione on Volume 3 of their Telemann ‘Grand’ concertos series (CPO 777891-2 – review) and on an older Telemann recording still well worth considering from Collegium Musicum 90 (Chandos CHAN0547, notable for the ‘Alster-Ouverture’ and the ‘Grillen-symphonie’). Those are fine all-Telemann special collections, but I’d find it hard to prefer any one of them to La Serenissima on the new album.

Fasch, too, is new to La Serenissima’s repertoire, but their account of his Concerto in D which closes the programme makes a better case for the composer than any of the three rather underpowered recordings of his music from La Tempesta di Mare (Chandos CHAN0751 – review – CHAN0783 – DL Roundup November 2011/1 – and CHAN0791 – review). Also better than either Chandos recording is the selection played by Il Gardellino (Accent ACC24252 – DL Roundup December 2011/1).

I don’t recall coming across music by Brescianello, another Italian composer associated with Dresden, but there’s more of his music on record than I thought and this performance of his Concerto in B-flat will certainly encourage me to check it out. Naxos Music Library is a good place to start, notably with his Sinfonia in D on a CPO recording of music for the Dresden court (with Pisendel, Fasch, etc., 777782-2 – review).

Reviewing Volume 4 of the CPO collection, I warned readers that they would want its predecessors, too (777892-2 – review) and though Johan van Veen thought the performances a tad too restrained at times, he was in general agreement – review. One very small reservation; the cover picture for Volume 6 is almost identical to that predecessor.

Michael Cookson thought Volume 5 ‘splendidly played’ (555082-2 – review). I missed that when it was released but, having listened via Naxos Music Library, I can but agree.

As with earlier volumes in the CPO series, there is little competition for much of the new release. The opening Sinfonia Melodica, for example, has only one other current recording to its credit, from Berliner Barocksolisten and Rainer Kußmaul, a 2005 album mainly designed to show the artistry of oboist Albrecht Mayer in Telemann (DG 4775923, download only). That’s a lively performance and, of course, Mayer is superb throughout. The recording gives him prominence, but Annette Spehr and Peter Westermann are equally fine on CPO and the balance is more natural; after all, this is a Sinfonia, not a concerto, though the soloists are never lost in the mix.

The two excerpts from Tafelmusik – here given its French equivalent title Musique de Table – are as well performed, too, as any recording that I have heard, including complete collections of the three sections of that work, such as the Concentus Musicus directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Warner Das Alte Werk 4775923, 4 CDs around £14). Don’t be surprised, indeed, if the CPO leads you to that very inexpensive complete edition, which actually costs less than the Naxos 4-CD collection with the Orchestra of the Golden Age, though that remains available on separate CDs for those not requiring the whole thing and is well worth considering. Tafelmusik was meant to be the equivalent of the ‘musack’ which pervades our shopping centres and not to disturb an elaborate meal, those eighteenth-century diners would surely have taken notice of performances of this quality, not least from La Stagione on the new CPO and earlier volumes.

Which volume of the CPO series should you begin with? That I can’t decide – any one of them is sure to lead you to the others, if only by streaming from Naxos Music Library, where Volume 6 is bound to join its predecessors in due course. Nor can I really choose between the new CPO and Signum releases; both represent very fine additions to the discography by these two first-rate ensembles. If you have to plump, perhaps it should be for the Signum, to celebrate La Serenissima breaking new ground.

Brian Wilson


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