Georg Philip Telemann was the composer of note from Germany in the mid-18th century. Better known in German circles than Bach as a composer, and a rather prolific one, too, he spent time in Hamburg, Leipzig, among other cities outshining in public view other composers more famous today, notably Handel and Bach. And while Handel and Bach would be influenced by Italian music, Telemann took a more French and Polish shine to his music. While some of the tracks in his orchestral suites echo the sounds heard in Bach and Handel, they tend to be longer. At times they contain humorous jibes, other times they sound of the most regal of ceremonies. This CD by the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is an excellent assortment of Telemann's orchestral suites, six works in all, in 32 tracks and 79 minutes on original instruments. Telemann: La Chasse/Tragikomische Suite Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (p)1999 Hamonia Mundi France I found this disc a good delight. The suite for four horns and orchestra, "Alster-Overture" is my favorite. The addition of rustic hunting horns makes for good fun in almost any piece, but this one is especially well-written. The sound of canons, echoes, glockenspiele, and more are included in just this one suite. La Musette, a very French overture, reminds me of the overture of Rameau. This one, in G-minor, is fit for the introduction of any fine opera. The interesting title of its 4th movement is "murky." As with every other movement, the ensemble here plays crisply and precisely, to the benefit of the music. The suite entitled "La Chasse" departs from the other orchestral suites by being scored entirely for winds. Oboes take the melody, and of course horns fill the harmony. The Rigaudon of this suite exposes the fast fingerwork of the oboes, which like the string playing in other suites, is top-rate. For me, this forward-looking suite is very galante, and looks ahead to the wind works by Mozart. Timapni and trumpets join the orchestra in the final suite. This suite stands out for its moments of malaise string sonata writing opposite, in the same movement, of jumpy, happy, spritely music punctuated by bassoons in the bass. It is unique music, to me, for Telemann. The suite ends, incidentally, in a fury of fast notes, punctuated by trumpets and drums; I imagine these "furies" are very much fun to watch being performed live. In total, this CD well represented the art of Telemann in the genre of the suite and overture forms. His French and German sides show here, as an able composer. Where his noise is not profound, we hardly notice due to the able ability of this German ensemble in realizing his works.
This review originally appeared on biberfan.org in December, 2004.