Telemann - Trios and Quartets (and a solo)
Georg Philipp Telemann, Trios & Quartets. Epoca Barocca. CPO, (p) 2011; Time: 66:00; Rating: (4.5/5).
Telemann was a prolific composer. During his long career as a composer (which, if we think, is somewhat special among baroque musicians, being recognized as a composer rather than a performer) he was held in high regard by his peers. His legacy includes a number of better-known instrumental collections such as the Paris Quartets or the Musique de Table. I am always interested, however, in exploring beyond these overplayed collections. Epoca Barocca have recorded a diverse set of pieces for winds and basso continuo.
The first piece, a “Quartet” for two flutes and two bassoons (TWV 43:D2) is a four-movement work that could also be led by violins. I am somewhat confused by the title: the bassoon part is independent; and I also see the piece listed as “quartet for 2 flutes, cello, bassoon & continuo.” Without the score, it’s impossible to say, but it sounds as if the second bassoon plays in tandem with the continuo part. The style of the piece is far less tight and energy-driven like Vivaldi’s chamber works for winds. Instead, the music is decidedly relaxing and genteel.
The next piece for flute, oboe, and continuo (TWV 42:d4) comes from the collection Essercizii Musici. Again written in four parts, I find the themes to be somewhat more interesting than those in the preceding piece.
I’d never heard the next piece, TWV 42:F16, re-constructed by Sergio Azzolini to supply the missing oboe part. In the orchestration here for two bassoons, they have independent parts that are executed well by Azzolini and Ai Ikeda. The sarabande is especially well done.
The softer sound of the transverse flute and oboe are well-matched in the recording of TWV 42:G13, a trio that dates from Telemann’s later period. His writing in the first Allegro smartly combines to the two soloists in parallel passages juxtapositioned with other passages that offer greater contrast between the parts. During the middle slower movement, I was hoping for some more colorful rhetoric. What’s played is fine, but it seems there’s space there for something more interesting to transpire.
The solo sonata for oboe and continuo (TWV 41:g12) is a well-wrought work that is performed with organ and archlute, which provides a nice change in timbre. The piece concludes with a gigue, wrought with some challenging runs for the oboe part. The strong oboe playing continues into the next piece featuring flute and oboe with continuo (TWV 42:e9).
Telemann’s galante style returns in the closing piece for two flutes, TWV 43:E1).
The album’s sound is good; it was recorded by Deutschland Radio in Cologne. For a studio recording, there’s significant air and ambiance around the players. All around, this album observes good tempos across every track. Despite Telemann’s renown in his day, his pieces are far easier listening than, say, the heavier, more profound themes we enjoy in Bach. Which says something about the taste of the time. This album wins in presenting a variety of chamber wind pieces, some with more profound licks than others. There’s nothing offensive or displeasing about the pieces themselves. But the lighter, more galante pieces for me leave less of an impression. Either way, they’re all well-performed.