IGA is undertaking a major project around Haydn’s symphonies but is also finding the time to explore Baroque works. This new release on Alpha entitled simply as “Telemann” is the ensemble’s first recording dedicated soley to the works of Georg Philipp Telemann.
Giovanni Antonini is to be admired in two guises, one as a conductor/director. Among his biggest accomplishments, I feel, was his reading of Handel’s op. 6 concerti grossi. He revealed shapes of shadow and contrast unlike anyone else had before. And as a flautist, he’s had many recordings under his belt to demonstrate his clear role as a world-class virtuoso on recorder and flute. In this album he assumes both roles, playing pieces by Telemann and directing a smaller, chamber version of IGA.
I’ve seen a YouTube video of the ensemble playing the Suite in A, TWV 55:A2 before. So I know the piece isn’t new to them.
The recording also includes a Recorder Concerto in C, a sonata for two chalumeaux in F, and a chamber concerto for recorder.
None of the pieces, to me, were “new.” For the piece featuring the two chalumeaux, a predecessor of the clarinet Telemann helped make popular, Antonini plays one himself.
The sound quality in this recording is interesting; it’s clear and dynamic, with a nice representation of the double bass. However it is also quite “live.” In some instances, where the ensemble is playing their fastest tempi, there’s some smearing and loss of detail in the ornamentation. It surprised me that IGA took some pieces slower than I had expected; the choices however fit the acoustic.
Comparisons for Telemann are apt with ensembles such as Collegium Musicum 90, Musica Antiqua Köln, and Camerata Köln, which all have performed a lot of Telemann. My 1990 recording of the Suite by Philip Pickett has held up well. Tempos are not the same between recordings, but I consider the artistry of Antonini as a soloist superior in many of my comparisons. He’s a sensitive and dynamic musician and responds well to the text, but never comes across as a slave to virtuosity.
The sound quality I mentioned earlier works well on a speaker setup than headphones. That’s my only gripe. It’s not a real criticism, it’s a preference for how recorded sound is captured. MAK preferred a close-miked and dry “studio” sound for their Telemann. IGA, in this release, has gone for a more realistic performance space. For the slower pieces it is absolutely gorgeous, especially so in the 15th track from the chalumeaux concerto.
If, like me, you own these pieces already by other ensembles, you may wonder what new and novel things might be had by a fresh recording? The music has its moments. Telemann wasn’t a Bach, and I don’t feel I always need multiple copies of Telemann’s pieces in my collection. That said, I can’t fully recommend this release if you already have the pieces represented on disc. However, if any of them are favorites, these performances are first-rate and played quite well. I especially liked the treatment in the Suite of the Les Plaisirs using a single stringed instrument in lieu of basso continuo against the recorder part. Hearing familiar tracks played more slowly, in some cases, turned out to be refreshing rather than disappointing.
Recommended to Telemann fans or as an introduction to any of these pieces as a reference recording.