Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681–1767)
The Colourful Telemann
(Suite) in c minor for two oboes, violin, strings and continuo, TWV55:c4
Concerto for two flutes, bassoon, strings and continuo in G, TWV53:G1
Sonata in e minor for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo, TWV50:4
Concerto for two flutes, violin and cello in D, TWV54:D1 [23:00]
in C for two oboes, strings and continuo, TWV50:2 [11:10]
Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra/Barthold Kuijken (flute)
rec. 11–13 February 2019, Ruth Lilly Performance Hall, Christel DeHaan
Fine Arts Center at the University of Indianapolis. DDD.
Reviewed as lossless (wav) press preview.
I don’t think anyone has ever attempted a Complete Telemann collection, or
ever will; it would be several times the size of a Complete Bach, itself a
cumbersome prospect unless you can find a copy of the USB stick Warner
Teldec mp3 collection: Recording of the Month –
– or the Hänssler edition on an iPod. The latter remains available less
neatly packaged on 172 CDs (HAEN98620, around £250 –
of earlier reissue: Bargain of the Month).
Naxos haven’t yet assembled a Complete Telemann, but they have been doing
very well by his music since the early days when their CDs sold for £3.99
in Woolworths. Among those early releases was an account of the Suite in a
minor, TWV55:a2, a viola concerto and other music, which earned and
retained a favoured place in the catalogue (8.550156, four stars, key and
rosette in the final edition of the Penguin Guide). It’s one of the first
Naxos CDs that I bought and I still enjoy listening to the stylish
performances, though the Capella Istropolitana plays on modern instruments.
I even know where to lay hands on it, which is far from the case with every CD
in my collection. And, though Naxos CDs now cost around twice the price of
those £3.99 Woolworths specials – more from some dealers; buy with care –
almost all can be purchased for less than £5.50 as lossless-quality
downloads – not, unfortunately 8.550156, but you should find the CD for
This is the first wholly Telemann contribution from Barthold Kuijken and
the period-instrument Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, but their Vivaldi and
Telemann album The Grand Mogul (8.573899) led me to expect good
things: ‘some very civilised music in very civilised performances’ –
Could this become a perennial favourite like that early Naxos release?
Before that they released The Lully Effect, which again features
the music of Telemann, alongside Lully and Rameau, revelatory performances -
review (8.573867) and The Versailles Revolution (8.573868 -
There can be no argument with the title: Telemann’s music is
colourful, sometimes more colourful than that of Bach. And, with much of
the colour in this music provided by the flute – two of them in a pair of
concertos here – it’s as well to have a flautist like Barthold Kuijken
directing the proceedings.
The short c minor Ouverture (Suite) opens proceedings in style.
Coincidentally, I presume, the same work opens a 2005 DG recording from
Albrecht Mayer (oboe) and the Berlin Barocksolisten, an album which closes,
like the Naxos, with the Sinfonia Melodica (E4775923, download
only). Mayer and the Berlin players take both works at a sprightly pace,
but, as I wrote when
two other Telemann recordings (Signum and CPO), that album is designed
mainly to show off Mayer’s oboe, favoured in the recording balance, though
neither work is actually a concerto.
A fairer comparison for the Sinfonia would be with La Stagione
Frankfurt on the CPO album in that 2019 review; they open with that work on Grand Concertos for mixed instruments VI (555239-2). It’s an
excellent set of performances, and well worth having, even alongside the
new Naxos, but it does cost rather more, both on CD and as a download. La
Stagione take each one of the seven movements slightly faster than the
Indianapolis performers; the difference is only seconds in every case, and
the final gigue en canarie takes exactly the same 59 seconds on
The CPO recording also includes the e minor Sonata, TWV50:4. Once again, La
Stagione are consistently slightly faster in every one of the five
movements. I’m usually sceptical about making direct comparisons,
especially where, as is the case with the new Naxos recording, everything
seems to sit just right, with no sense that the tempo is lagging anywhere.
The opening vivace assai of the Sinfonia melodica takes
2:28 on Naxos and 2:02 on CPO, and, though the difference in tempo is
apparent from a direct comparison, heard separately, both of them sound
absolutely idiomatic. In fact, for all my continuing enjoyment of the CPO,
it does seem just a little hectic played immediately after the Naxos, but
it’s an essential purchase for Telemann addicts because it contains some
works not otherwise available.
Despite the title, the Sinfonia melodica is neither a symphony in
the modern sense nor Italianate; it’s a set of French-style dances and, as
such, it receives a stylish performance on Naxos.
With Kuijken on hand, playing his copy of a baroque flute, inevitably the
high points of the new Naxos recording are the two concertos for two
flutes. Once again, the competition comes from a CPO recording, an 8-CD set
of Telemann’s Complete Wind Concertos (777939-2, La Stagione and Concerto
Köln sharing the honours). TWV53:G1 is available separately on 777268-2 and
TWV54:D1 on 777891-2 –
Here, again, the CPO performances are slightly faster, though not
necessarily lighter on their feet. If pushed to make a choice, here too I
think I would finally settle for the slightly lighter tone of Kuijken and
Indianapolis Baroque. I see that I was not alone in noting and approving their light and
nimble tone on their earlier Naxos recordings.
I’ve very much enjoyed revisiting the older Telemann recordings mentioned
in this review. The music is varied and endlessly inventive, and distinct
from that of his two great contemporaries, Bach and Handel. CPO have done
so much to bring us his music in first-rate performances, but Naxos, too,
have been instrumental in providing Telemann at an affordable price, and
this new addition to their catalogue is an excellent example. I asked if it
would become as perennial a favourite as that of the Suite in a and other
works; I think it may well.
I’ve been ducking one comparison until this point, and that’s with another
series of recordings which have done so much to make Telemann’s music
available in very fine performances, from Collegium Musicum 90 and Simon
Standage for Chandos. TWV54:D1 features on Ouverture burlesque,
Chandos Chaconne CHAN0512, a download-only collection which opens with the
work of that title. With a group of distinguished soloists, Standage takes
the work a shade faster than Kuijken, but I actually found myself slightly
preferring the new recording.
I really like the whole of that Chandos series and, surprised that
it’s no longer available on CD, I think it well worth downloading.
Alternatively, a CDR copy can be ordered. But I can’t honestly say that
either the Chandos or the CPO recordings, very good as they are, in any way
outclass the new release. Nor is the Naxos recording at all inferior. My
review copy came in 16-bit (wav) lossless format, but there’s a 24-bit
version for audiophiles.
Like the earlier releases from Indianapolis Baroque, I think I shall be
revisiting this frequently; only time will tell if it becomes as perennial
a favourite as that Woolworths-bought early Naxos Telemann, but the chances
are that it will. As my pick of the four recent Naxos releases that I’ve
been hearing as review copies, this has to go into the Recommended