SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

TELEMANN: Overture in F Minor; Concerto in D Major for Two Traverse Flutes; Concerto in F Major; Concerto in B-flat Major for Two Traverse Flutes, Oboe, and Violin; Concerto in G Major – soloists/Holland Baroque Society/Alexis Kossenko – Channel Classics

The works on the current CD are apparently not new to disc, but they’re new to me, and my first reaction is that they very enjoyably paint the portrait of Telemann as musical chameleon.

Published on March 2, 2010

TELEMANN: Overture in F Minor; Concerto in D Major for Two Traverse Flutes; Concerto in F Major; Concerto in B-flat Major for Two Traverse Flutes, Oboe, and Violin; Concerto in G Major – soloists/Holland Baroque Society/Alexis Kossenko – Channel Classics

TELEMANN: Overture in F Minor; Concerto in D Major for Two Traverse Flutes, Violin, and Cello; Concerto in F Major for Recorder and Flute; Concerto in B-flat Major for Two Traverse Flutes, Oboe, and Violin; Concerto in G Major for Two Traverse Flutes and Bassoon – Holland Baroque Society/Alexis Kossenko, traverse flute, recorder/ Georges Barthel, traverse flute/ Jane Gower, bassoon/ Alfredo Bernardini, oboe/ Lidewij van der Voort, violin/ Judith Maria Olofsson, cello/ Alexis Kossenko – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 28409 77:13 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****1/2:

With George Philipp Telemann, it’s always possible to encounter new music—new music to you as a listener, if not new to the concert world. And given that only a fraction of Telemann’s prodigious output has been published, he should inspire the sense of discovery for a long time to come.

The works on the current CD are apparently not new to disc, but they’re new to me, and my first reaction is that they very enjoyably paint the portrait of Telemann as musical chameleon. The grand Overture in E Minor that starts off the festivities is a perfect transplantation of the French overture tradition to Leipzig. It is French in form, demeanor, and even instrumentation, as Alexis Kossenko explains in his brief but informative notes: “the instrumentation [is] in the old French manner: two violin parts, tenor viola, viola, and bass, with coloristic use of the winds.” Even the title of one of the movements reminds you instantly of Couperin or Rameau; the second movement is entitled Cyclopes, and it paints a musical picture of Vulcan’s clangorous blacksmith shop.

Turn to the Concerto in D Major, and we’re in Vivaldi’s Venice by way of Leipzig. Again, a perfect distillation of the spirit of the Italian concerto, this piece reminds us that Telemann was the first German composer to write a violin concerto in the soon-to-be-favored Italian style.

These works underscore Telemann’s chameleon musicianship best, perhaps, but the pleasures don’t end here. The Concerto in G Minor, with its flute and bassoon soloists set against the strings’ ripieno group is, for all intents and purposes, a concerto grosso with the sense of opposing forces typical of that form. Its polonaise finale, complete with musette imitations, is perhaps the most attractive of all. And maybe the most fun is the Concerto in F, with its serio-comical pairing of recorder and bassoon. At points they seem like the soprano and bass in some Baroque comic opera featuring a should-know-better oldster and his young wife.

The works are uniformly entertaining, and the performances are the height of suavity and grace. The Holland Baroque Society, playing on original instruments, performs without conductor but instead invites a visiting leader to take over the podium for each project. They have chosen well in flutist and conductor Alexis Kossenko, who understands well the numerous different styles that make up that supposed monolith we call Baroque style. And he is served very well by all his soloists, so much so that I hesitate, but only briefly, to call special attention to Australian bassoonist Jane Gower, whose playing is lithe, liquid, always characterful.

The recording, made in an Amsterdam church, is close up but with the usual churchly ambience. This combination may impart a bit of brittleness to the strings on some systems; however, the detail and timbreal fidelity accorded to the soloists make for enjoyable listening overall. I certainly hope the Holland Baroque Society isn’t done exploring the wide world of Telemann.

-Lee Passarella




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