Telemann Grand Concertos, volume 3
Georg Philipp Telemann, The Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments, Volume 3. La Stagione Frankfurt. CPO, (p) 2016; Time: 63:00; Rating: (4.5/5).
Too often, despite the fact that Telemann was a prolific composer in the high baroque, so many recordings seem to focus on the same pieces. Kudos go to Schneider in the ambitious recording project to record Telemann’s wind concertos, and in this collection, concertos for combinations of instruments. This CD includes concertos from the TWV 52-54 series.
The opening concerto is scored for 3 trumpets, 2 oboes, timpani, and strings in D (TWV 54:D3). Telemann was no slave to any one particular concerto format (and unlike Bach, was not at all very interested in the Italian 3-movement concerto). This concerto is divided into 5 movements, many short, the entire thing lasting only 9:33. I can only imagine this piece would have served well as an entre’act for something that followed, a festival, an opera, or even a religious celebration. The Largo that precedes the final Vivace reeks of Handelian drama. The concerto is well performed, with good balance.
The next concerto, TWV 52:e3, is a popular one in the recorded catalog. A flute and violin serve as soloists. The opening movement bristles with energy from the orchestral ensemble. I can’t commit to this performance being the strongest since there are so many recordings, but it is among the best. The balance between soloists and the string forces sounds very natural. The middle Presto, featuring a difficult run for the violin, is well done. The final Allegro feels faster than an Allegro, but it’s done with excellent taste.
The concerto for 3 horns and violin (TWV 52:D2) is a rather special treat considering the entire album. It’s a sunny, happy work, featuring an excellent performance from the three horns. Their playing is really well done, and there’s enough rustic energy to fully qualify the piece as a festive affair. Telemann’s writing in the finale (third movement) is so different from, say, Bach. He opens with a unison theme, then contrasts that with the full ensemble locked in rhythm. It comes off as a very modern sound for Telemann, forecasting the symphonies that would be written in within the next twenty years, bridging the baroque and classical eras. The horns are on fire in this movement. Really worth the whole price of admission.
The four-movement concerto for 2 flutes and calchedon, TWV 53:e2, is realized by oboes (in lieu of flutes) and violin. Solo violin also plays a prominent role. The form of the piece is interesting; Telemann presents a “da capo” Allegro after the second movement, marked Andante. The piece ends with a menuet, blurring the distinction between a suite and concerto.
The final concerto, TWV 54:D1, also whiffs of modernity, if not Frenchness. Two flutes, violin, and a cello soloist pepper the solo passages with memories of other Telemann works (in style), and in some parts, I’m reminded of his Paris Quartets. The themes are very sunny in the first movement; the second movement, marked Siciliana, takes the sunny disposition in a harmonic transposition after starting off in the minor mode. Full-on galante style is explored in the solo episodes in the third movement. The concerto ends with a jaunty Gavotte. While this piece is not my favorite from the disc’s buffet, it’s as well-performed as all the rest.
There have been recordings by La Stagione that have, to my ears, been a little “safe.” This recording reveals a different side of this ensemble, still technically tight, but perhaps less conservative. That freedom, combined with quite excellent recorded sound quality, qualify this as a very strong release.