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Leipzig 1723
Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760)
Concerto in F major, GWV 323 [9:28]
Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758)
Sonata in D minor, FaWV N:d3 [9:35]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in F major, BWV 1057 [15:20]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Quartet in F major, TWV 43:g4 [7:49]
Johann Friedrich FASCH 
Concerto in F major, FaWV L:F6 [7:53
Georg Philipp TELEMANN 
Concerto in C major, TWV 51:C1 [16:08]
Stefan Temmingh (recorder)
Sebastian Wienand (harpsichord)
Capricornus Consort Basel/Pter Barczi
rec. August 2020, Church St. German, Seewen, Switzerland
ACCENT ACC24375 [66:15]

Having enjoyed Stefan Temmingh’s playing and the sound of the Capricornus Consort Basel in a previous outing on the Accent label (review), I needed no persuading when it came to this new programme, recorded in the same marvellous acoustic and if anything exceeding my already high expectations.

CD releases all seem to need a theme or a title these days, but the concept here is a good one. Johan Kuhnau, cantor at the Leipzig Thomasschule, died in 1722, and the four composers represented on this disc all applied for this prestigious post, considered one of the most important in the German musical world at the time. The selection process lasted nine months and Bach of course won out in the end, though only as ‘third choice’, the whole tale nicely outlined in the booklet notes for this release.

Given a lively balance with lots of air in between the players, this is just the kind of recording to have around to cheer yourself up with on a damp and dingy November afternoon. Underpinned by the rich thrum of an arch-lute and the harmonies and rhythms spiced up by harpsichord continuo, these performances tick every early music box while being superbly sensitive and expressive performances of works both familiar and unfamiliar. Graupner’s Concerto in F is a fine opener, the recorder emerging on a single long note as if descending from the heavens. As with every quick movement here the rhythmic accuracy is needle-sharp but also full of life and vivacity. It is, however, the music in the slow movements that grabs the ear as much as anything. In this concerto, the central Andante has pizzicato strings over gently chiming but oh-so-eloquent harmonies upon which the recorder weaves quasi-improvisatory but almost secondary figures. Gorgeously expressive harmony is also a feature of Fasch’s four-movement Sonata in D minor which, for contrast, has no recorder part.

Bach’s Concerto in F, BWV 1057 is famous in its version as the Brandenburg Concerto No 4, and this chamber version was probably made for one of the professional or semi-professional ensembles active in Leipzig during his time there. The recorder duo is kept at a distance from the rest of the ensemble in this recording which means that their sound blends nicely, and the harpsichord is spot-lit as soloist. With a heartfelt central Andante and excellent energy in the finale, this is a version to treasure. Talking of energy, Telemann’s Quartet in G minor opens in virtuoso fashion with a propellant Allegro, followed by a pastoral Adagio with some moments that may bring a tear to your eye if you are so inclined. Fasch’s Concerto in F is another virtuoso vehicle for Stefan Temmingh’s nimble fingers, the impassioned restraint of its Largo almost operatic in its narrative quality. The programme closes with Telemann’s Concerto in C, which may have been composed with Darmstadt musician Johann Michael Bhm in mind. The solo part explores the high registers, and it has therefore also been speculated that the original intended instrument might have been by Jacob Denner the renowned Nuremberg maker, and a figure almost certainly known to Telemann. Whatever its provenance, this four-movement work has melodic charm and a rousing Tempo de Minue which sends us away with a smile on our faces.

This release is both an education in a particular moment in music history, and a superbly entertaining collection of the very finest Baroque music. Congratulations are in order to everyone involved in this production, and I can guarantee I will be keeping it handy for moments in which a musical pick-me-up is required.

Dominy Clements

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