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GRAMOPHONE (07/2002)  &  (09/1999) 
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Harmonia Mundi

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CD 1: Reviewer: 
Lindsay Kemp

Telemann at his most light-hearted played with plenty of appropriate energy


More entrancing Telemann suites - how the man kept them coming I just do not know. Here we have La Bizarre, rather excitedly named after some textural oddities in the overture; a trumpet suite with no title but including an amusing depiction of a postillion; and Les Nations, a whizz through the national characteristics by turns of the Turks (coarse and direct), the Swiss (calm and dignified), the Muscovites (represented by their church bells) and the Portuguese (exuberant dancing). This particular suite also ends with a pair of movements depicting horses fast and slow - Telemann certainly liked to let his imagination range freely' Finally, there is a violin concerto which seems to be a tongue-in-cheek imitation of Vivaldi imitating frogs (Les Rainettes), creatures which readily lend themselves to dissonant string impersonation. In short, this is music of unremitting good humour, with plenty of jokes for musicians and listeners alike, in which the ideas never stop flowing and the craftsmanship never falters. How like Haydn Telemann can be! The Berlin Academy of Early Music could have been made for these works. All it takes to bring them off, after all, is to play with Tiggerish energy, virtuoso precision of ensemble and a huge smile in your heart, and this they do with a group spirit that is all the more remarkable for the fact that they operate without a director. True, they may lack some of the clarity and grace shown by Collegium Musicum 90 under Simon Standage in their account of Les Nations on Chandos, but their strength of commitment more man compensates . This, one senses, is a group in which every member is prepared to live the music to the full, and the result is a joy from start to finish .

CD 2:  Reviewer: Nicholas Anderson

It is almost always a pleasure to listen to Telemann's orchestral suites. Readers will know that he wrote rather a lot of them; they will also know that few, if any, could possibly be construed as dull or in any sense routine. Two qualities, above all, make these works rewarding. One of them is Telemann's skilled deployment of instrumental colour - horns, four of them, trumpets , flutes , oboes and bassoon all make appearances in the five pieces recorded here. The other is his wonderfully supple rhythmic sense which, together with his melodic charm and harmonic warmth, makes for unstinted diversion.


Only one of the works here is at all well known. That is the Alster Suite with its occasional onomatopoeic content. It's a well-sustained piece yet not, perhaps, in the end one of Telemann’s most musically satisfying ones . I have a sneaking sympathy for his Hamburg contemporary , Mattheson, who disliked the composer's predilection for imitating the sounds of nature. For my ears, at least , the elegantly proportioned and modestly scored Suite in G minor, La Musette, is more beguiling and of greater enduring appeal. Its 'Polonaise' is vintage stuff, as are the 'Musette' from which the Suite takes its name, and the central European-inspired 'Mourky'.


Performances are full of atmosphere and sensible to the myriad of expressive niceties which make Telemann’'s style exhilarating and touching, in turn. But there are patches of rough oboe playing in the AIster Suite which mar an otherwise agreeable performance. That apart, the release is warmly commended. More than half the programme appears on disc for the first time, so ardent Telemann collectors will be able to extend their repertoire. Fine recorded sound.

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