Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681–1767)
The Complete Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments
La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
rec. 2013-2018, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln, Germany; 2016, Kozerthalle Georg Philipp Telemann, Magdeburg, Germany
CPO 555 414-2 [6 CDs: 388:15]
In Telemann’s anniversary year 2017 there appeared many a fine recording of his music. I reviewed two collections (on Warner Classics 0190295860134 and on Ricercar RIC 375). Volumes 4 and 5 of the present box were also released that year. There obviously is overlap between the three sets. No matter: it is always good to have a complete set, especially a set like this one, which shows what fascinating and magnificent music one was missing.
CPO has already surveyed Telemann’s wind concertos and violin concertos. The label has now turned its attention to the concertos for varied instruments with more than one soloist. The result is quite splendid, and this glorious music has received some very good recordings, released as single discs between 2014 and 2019 (some reviewed in these pages). This set presents the six original CDs in a slipcase, each disc with the original booklet and in it a well-researched analysis of the music by Wolfgang Hirschmann, the editor in chief of the Bäreniter Telemann Edition.
There is here a cornucopia of first-rate music: interesting combinations of instruments, and persuasive performances. Right from the start,
Volume 1 offers a piece that makes one sit up and listen. The Concerto in D
major TWV deest, for two trumpets, two oboes, strings and continuo is quite grand, and the period brass sound of the trumpets heralds an exciting program. The Concerto TWV 53:E1 in E major for flute, oboe d'amore, viola d'amore, strings and continuo is probably the best-known on this disc. Telemann had a certain affinity with the flute, so it fits in well with the likes of the Concerto TWV 51:D1 in D major for flute, strings and continuo (on
Volume 5 of his wind concertos, CPO 777 401-2). Some great playing, especially in the slow Andante first movement; the strings come through clearly and blend well with the winds in the final Vivace.
Volume 2 is equally convincing. The Concerto in D major for two violins, bassoon, strings and continuo is quite attractive, with the solo violins playing above the chirping of the bassoon. Telemann shows his mastery in writing for the recorder in the
Concertos in A minor and B-flat, the latter for two recorders, but he really excels on this disc in the
Concertos for the trumpet. The Concerto in D major for three trumpets, timpani, strings and continuo sets it own difficulties in the balancing of the brash sound of the three trumpets and drums against the mellower sound of the strings. Telemann does it with ease, and the playing of La Stagione Frankfurt brings out every nuance of the music. The Concerto in D major for solo violin, trumpet, cello, strings and continuo, it is the solo violin that dominates the proceedings; the trumpet only really shines as the occasional partner, as in the final Allegro.
Volume 3 begins with a flourish. The Concerto in D major for three trumpets, two oboes, timpani, strings and continuo certainly is an effective opener. Its brash trumpet tutti give a bright attention-grabbing ploy, whilst the oboes in the slower passages are quite intriguing. The disc also contains two works with the flute. The Concerto in E minor for flute, violin, strings and continuo has the solo prevalent in the slower movements, and the interplay between the violin and flute in the second movement Adagio is quite lovely. In the Concerto in D major for two flutes, violin, cello, strings and continuo, it is perhaps the solo cello that has the biggest effect, especially in the second-movement Siciliana where it plays an achingly beautiful solo. Wolfgang Hirschmann’s notes describe it as “a dirge lasting more than six minutes, making it probably the longest concerto slow movement in Telemann’s surviving oeuvre”.
In the other concertos on this disc, Telemann exploits the vocal qualities of the oboes in the Concerto in E minor for two oboes, solo violin, strings and continuo. This is especially true in the Andante, which also benefits from some nice contracts between the oboe and solo violin. There also is the first chance to hear the composer’s thoughts about the horn. The Concerto in D major for three horns, violin, strings and continuo in fact is more like a concerto for horn and violin; two supporting horns are mainly employed in the tutti sections. There is some fine writing for the violin, especially in the second movement Grave and the final Presto. The horn is asked to reach towards the top end of its register. This may be my favourite work on this
Disc 3; it makes me look forward to Telemann’s other horn works.
Volume 4 contains one of Telemann’s most unusual works: Concerto in F major for two horns, two violins, recorder, oboe, two cellos, strings and continuo. Not only is it written for eight solo instruments but it seems to be an amalgam of a traditional concerto and a baroque dance suite. After three usual fast-slow-fast movements, there follow a Bourče, a Menuet, a Loure and a Gigue. Telemann shifts between solo instruments, giving each of the movements a different sonority.
4 also contains the Concerto in C minor for oboe, violin, strings and continuo with some nice interplay between the solo instruments. The Concerto in D major for trumpet, two oboes, strings and continuo could have been included in the series devoted to the wind concertos. As Johan van Veen suggests in his review of the original single disc, it was because the wind instruments did not have a true solo. Never mind why, there is an attractive central slow movement for the oboes and strings alone. The Concerto in F major for two flutes, two oboes, two violins and continuo begins nicely with the solo instruments melding well in the opening Grave. Again, there are no real solo sections, rather the solo instruments are there mainly to hold the tune, and the strings underpin them. The disc ends with the Concerto in E minor for two flutes, solo violin, strings and continuo. It is another remarkable work, which reinforces just what a fine composer Telemann was, notably in the opening Larghetto where the flutes and solo violin work around each other to good effect.
The Divertimento in E-flat major for two horns, two flutes, strings and continuo that opens
Volume 5 is another memorable work, made up of six short movements, with the natural horns and flutes blending nicely. The lovely opening melody in the sixth movement Retrait has become my ‘ear-worm’: I find myself humming the tune even when I listen to different music. There follows the Concert ŕ neuf parties
'Grillensymphonie' in G major for piccolo flute, flute, oboe, chalumeau, strings and two double basses. This interesting work bore the original title of ‘Cricket symphony in the Italian, French, English, Scottish and Polish styles’; there is certainly a feel of a Scottish dance in the final Presto.
Unlike the previous two works, the Concerto in G minor for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo begins almost meditatively with a tender Grave et détaché. The sombre mood soon gives way to a joyous Allegro, followed by a more moderate En Loure, the longest of the five movements, before we return to the sombre mood with another Grave. This is soon whisked away with the final Allegro which contains some spirited oboe playing, whilst the inclusion of the bassoon cannot be overlooked. The short Sonata in D major for trumpet, strings and continuo fits well into the concerto tradition. The trumpet stands out strongly against the strings, even if it does not appear in the slow contemplative Largo central movement. The star on this disc is the Concerto in F major ‘Suitenkonzert’ TWV 51:F4 for solo violin, two flutes, two oboes, two horns (alternative two trumpets), timpani, strings and continuo. It is thought to have been composed around 1750. The richly scored seven movements give special treatment to the solo violin.
One might assume that last volume would house lesser works, which did not fit on other discs in this series. Far from it: the disc is no less entertaining, and includes some of Telemann’s most often performed pieces. The ‘Sinfonia Melodica’ in C major for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo, one of his last completed works, has great colour and imagination. This is actually a seven-movement suite which contrasts more agile and more contemplative movements. Next comes the Concerto in E-flat major for two horns, two violins, strings and continuo from some thirty years earlier. It is well known as part of Production III from Tafelmusik. The Concerto in B-flat major for three oboes, three violins and continuo is possibly even earlier; research points to Telemann’s Eisenach period (1708-1712). This
Concerto has links to some of the sacred music he wrote during that period: it is typical how the music alternates between the oboes and violins in the opening motif.
The Concerto Sonata in E minor for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo is next. Hirschmann points to its link with the Concerto in G minor for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo on the previous volume, stating that they “form a dual work”. In the discussion, he talks of the strings as two violins and two violas, but he does not mention the nicely supportive bassoon, even in his title for the work. After this, we return to more familiar ground with the Concerto in A major for flute, violin, cello, strings and continuo from Production I of Tafelmusik. It is a fitting way to conclude this disc and the series.
The set introduces us to the colour and textural brilliance of Telemann’s music. He was not afraid to experiment with various, sometimes striking, combinations of instruments, and he anticipated the sinfonia concertante. There are no dull works here. Each piece offers the listener a variety of sonorities and aural possibilities, to a great effect. There is much to delight if not enthral. All the soloists of La Stagione Frankfurt give engaging and expert recitals, and Michael Schneider directs them very well. Wolfgang Hirschmann’s booklet notes – six of them – give insight into the composer and his music. The fine recorded sound helps to clearly bring out every nuance of this music and the performances. This set is a real winner, a must for all fans of Telemann and of the music of the period as a whole.
Disc 1 [62:33] (777 859-2)
Concerto in D major TWV deest, for 2 trumpets, 2 oboes, strings and b.c. [10:34]
Concerto for 2 Flutes and Oboe in B-flat major, TWV 54:B1 [12:13]
Concerto in D TWV 53:D3, for cello, 2 oboe d’amore, strings and b.c. [7:44]
Concerto TWV 53:E1 in E major for flute, oboe d'amore, viola d'amore, strings and b.c. [17:20]
Septet (Concerto) TWV 44:42 in A minor for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 violins and b.c. [7:03]
Sinfonia in F major, TWV 50:3, for flute, viola da gamba, orchestra and b.c. [7:27]
Disc 2 [59:36] (777 890-2)
Concerto TWV 53:D4 in D major for 2 violins, bassoon, strings and b.c. [12:37]
Concerto TWV 52:a1 in A minor for recorder, viola da gamba, strings and b.c. [14:50]
Concerto TWV 54:D4 in D major for 3 trumpets, timpani, strings and b.c. [7:27]
Concerto TWV 54:B2 in B-flat major for 2 recorders, 2 oboes, strings and b.c. [10:46]
Concerto TWV 53:D5 in D major for solo violin, trumpet, cello, strings and b.c. [13:19]
Disc 3 [63:09] (777 891-2)
Concerto in D major TWV54:D3, for 3 trumpets, 2 oboes, timpani, strings and b.c. [9:33]
Concerto TWV 52:e3 in E minor for flute, violin, strings and b.c. [9:41]
Concerto TWV 54:D2 in D major for 3 horns, violin, strings and b.c. [9:57]
Concerto TWV 53:e2 in E minor for 2 oboes, solo violin, strings and b.c. [11:31]
Concerto TWV 54:D1 in D major for 2 flutes, violin, cello, strings and b.c. [21:55]
Disc 4 [59:30] (777 892-2)
Concerto TWV 52:c1 in C minor for oboe, violin, strings and b.c. [7:19]
Concerto TWV 52:D2 in D major for trumpet, 2 oboes, strings and b.c. [8:31]
Concerto A 10, TWV 54:F1 in F major for 2 horns, 2 violins, recorder, oboe, 2 cellos, strings and b.c. [24:04]
Concerto TWV 44:41 in F major for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 violins and b.c. [7:15]
Concerto TWV 53:e1 in E minor for 2 flutes, solo violin, strings and b.c. [11:51]
Disc 5 [70:03] (555 082-2)
Divertimento TWV50:21 in E-flat major for 2 horns, 2 flutes, strings and b.c. [10:21]
Concert ŕ neuf parties 'Grillensymphonie' TWV 50:1 in G major for piccolo flute, flute, oboe, chalumeau, strings and 2 double basses [9:20]
Concerto TWV 53:g1 in G minor for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings and b.c. [16:31]
Sonata in D major TWV 44:1, for trumpet, strings and b.c. [9:07]
Concerto in F major ‘Suitenkonzert’ TWV 51:F4 for solo violin, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 horns (alternative 2 trumpets), timpani, strings and b.c. [23:35]
Disc 6 [73:24] (555 239-2)
‘Sinfonia Melodica’ TWV 50:2 in C major for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings and b.c. [9:52]
Concerto TWV 54:Es1 in E-flat major for 2 horns, 2 violins, strings and b.c. [15:00]
Concerto (Septet) TWV 44:43 in B-flat major for 3 oboes, 3 violins and b.c. [9:40]
Concerto (Sonata) TWV 50:4 in E minor for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings and b.c. [12:52]
Concerto TWV 53:A2 in A major for flute, violin, cello, strings and b.c. [25:40]
b.c. = basso continuo