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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681–1767)
Wind Overtures Volume 2
Overture (Quintet) for 2 oboes, 2 horns & bassoon, TWV44:3 in D [16:20]
Overture TWV55F:11 in F (Alster-Overture) for 4 horns, 2 oboes (doubled) & bassoon (doubled) [34:07]
Overture (Quintet) for 2 oboes, 2 horns & bassoon / basso continuo, TWV44:9 in F [8:00]
L’Orfeo Bläserensemble/Carin van Heerden
rec. Brüdergemeinde Gnadau, Germany, 6-9 November 2017. DDD.
Reviewed as downloaded from press preview
CPO 555212–2 [58:42]

Reviewing Volume 1 of this series, Johan van Veen wrote that he was eagerly looking forward to its successor (555085-2 – review). Having downloaded that, via press access, I can fully share his enthusiasm, which is hardly surprising: Telemann ranks almost equal with Bach and Handel in my estimation, and CPO have done more for his music, especially the cantatas and concertos, than any other label that I can think of. They are great exponents of the North German baroque in all its manifestations; I’ve just submitted an appreciation of their recent recording of Bassoon Cantatas of Graupner, who was himself responsible for one of the largest collections of Telemann’s music (555353-2, review pending). And, for a gentler view of his chamber concertos than that offered by Reinhard Goebel (DG Archiv), don’t overlook Camerata Köln’s recordings of Telemann’s Concerti da camera Volume 1 (555131-2: Recording of the Month – review).

Telemann is aptly described in the CPO booklet as ‘alleskönner’, or Jack of all trades; in addition to his better-known works his compositions included music for wind ensemble, or Harmoniemusik. It’s my loss that I hadn’t known much of his output in that form; even the ‘Alster’ Overture, included here, is usually performed differently scored. I’m pleased that CPO have once again expanded my knowledge of Telemann, with the able assistance of L’Orfeo Bläserensemble and Carin van Heerden.

L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra brought us three of the instalments of CPO’s recordings of Telemann’s Violin Concertos, with Elizabeth Wallfisch. Having missed Volume 1 (9999900-2 – review review), I downloaded that, too, to match the other volumes which I already knew. Now L’Orfeo wind players have given us two equally fine recordings of this wind-band music.

The star of the show on the new recording is the ‘Alster’ Overture, depicting places and beings, real and mythical, in and around Telemann’s adopted city of Hamburg. It may not be quite as colourful as his Hamburger Ebb’ und Flut, often known as his ‘Water Music’, but Die concertierenden Frösche und Krähen (Concertizing frogs and crows) crown the centre of the work as humorously as the jolly (drunken?) boatmen round off the ‘Water Music’. Biber may have been the baroque master of animal impressions, but Telemann runs him pretty close here, and L’Orfeo really get into the spirit of the music. What a shame that Saint-Saëns didn’t include frogs and crows in his Carnaval des Animaux; even his donkey impressions are not as zany as this. Though Saint-Saëns’ ‘Swan’ is justly one of the most recognisable pieces of classical music, Telemann’s ‘Swan Song’, movement five of the suite, has its own attractions, too.

The Alster shepherds, dancing their rather lumpen, slightly off-beat, off-key, village dance in the sixth movement, are also given just the right treatment by L’Orfeo, while the shepherds and nymphs, the former now rather more in step and in tune, see the overture off in style with their hasty departure (eilfertiger Abzug).

The only reason to prefer Simon Standage’s Chandos recording with Collegium Musicum 90 might be the inclusion on that album of Telemann’s equally attractive Grillen-symphonie (Crickets’ symphony) on CHAN0547, but CPO have their own very fine take on that on Volume 5 of their Grand Concertos for mixed instruments (555082-2, or complete on 6 CDs, 555414-2 – review).

Moreover, CPO claim this as the premier recording of the wind-band score of the work. The notes refer to recent research that suggests that this wind version was played on boats on the River Alster – a parallel there with Handel’s Water Music – as a prelude to a lost serenata in honour of the visiting Duke of Brunswick-Lüneberg. That explains the presence in the overture of the figures of Pan, Peleus, shepherds and nymphs, all recorded as taking part in the entertainment, whose parts are reduced in the final version of the music. Effectively, then, what CPO and Chandos have recorded are two very different versions of this work.

These seem to be the only versions of the opening Overture-Quintet in D and its closing companion in F. They may not share the picture-painting qualities of the ‘Alster’ Overture, but they are enjoyable works in their own right. I have no comparison for either, but these vigorous and stylish performances seem hardly likely to be superseded.

I’m pleased to note not only that there is a download version of this recording, but that it comes with the booklet in pdf format. Some recent CPO releases have been in physical form only, and those that are available as downloads have not always included the booklet. In this case the notes, by Manfred Fechner, are really worth having.

With very fine performances, notes and recording quality – as reviewed in 16-bit lossless format; there doesn’t seem to be a 24-bit version – this second volume is preferable even to the first.

Brian Wilson

L’Orfeo Bläserensemble:
Oboe: Carin van Heerden, Philipp Wagner, Thomas Meraner (TWV55:F11), Anabel Röser (TWV55:F11) Bassoon: Nikolaus Broda, Makiko Kurabayashi (TWV55:F11)
Horn: Stephan Katte, Sebastian Fischer, Elliot Seidman (TWV55:F11), Achim Schmid-Egger (TWV55:F11)
Harpsichord: Anne Marie Dragosits
Lute: David Bergmüller

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