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GRAMOPHONE (Awards Issue /2015)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp


These four overture-suites and one chamber concerto are pretty much what one would expect from Telemann: amiable, urbane, expertly written and laced with the odd character piece to make you smile. What makes this release unusual, however, is that they are all for what Telemann might have called a Hautboisten Band, which is to say an ensemble of oboes and bassoons with continuo. Such groups were much in favour in German courts in the first decades of the 18th century; but while as so often the Germans had taken their lead in this from Louis XIV’s France, the addition of horns was their own innovation, a development known as the Sächsische Variante, the ‘Saxon Alternative’ that was to lead straight towards the Classical Harmoniemusik and which gives this recording its title.


Syrinx, a UK-based ensemble making their recording debut, offer clean, well-judged and essentially attractive performances of the 30 short movements that make up these five pieces. I don’t know how many other wind pieces Telemann wrote, but it seems likely to be quite a few, so they have chosen well in varying the sounds – horns appear in only three of them, while the Concerto a 5 pits them against oboes d’amore. The overall atmosphere is polite and well-mannered, with the horns resisting the temptation to swamp things with outdoor ebullience. This seems fine in this context – and they still sound splendid – and if anything it is the oboes who one wishes were making a keener and fruitier sound. Elsewhere there are places where more playful imagination would have been welcome, but it is nice to be introduced to this elegant wind music, even if it won’t blow your mind.


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