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Georg Philipp TELEMANN
(1681 - 1767)
String Concertos.
Concerto polonois in G Major [8.38]
Concerto polonois in B Flat Major [9.08]
Divertimento in A Major [11.03]
Divertimento in B Flat major [9.05]
Concerto for Viola in G Major [10.50]
Concerto 'a sei' in G Major [9.14]
Concerto for 2 Violas in G Major. [6.21]

Musica Antiqua Köln on original instruments Director Reinhard Goebel
Recorded Sept 1999, Köln, Deutschland Radio. This is a co-production with Deutschland Radio, Koln.DDD
ARCHIV 463 074-2 [65.06]
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Prolific, long-lived, a contemporary of J.S.Bach and was offered the Cantorship at LeipZig in preference to Bach -then turned it down for something better elsewhere - that just about sums up the non-specialist view of Telemann. Those skeletal facts give a reasonable thumb-nail sketch of the man who is the subject of this CD for which Reinhard Goebel, director of the Cologne ensemble, has dug deep into the mass of music by Telemann which exists but is largely unknown. Hardly surprising, as he wrote over 600 overtures, 44 Passions and 40 Operas (Vivaldi was said to have written 94).

This disc is the latest of several that have investigated Telemann's compositions and for this release mix the three Concerti (all in G major) for Viola, two Violins and two Violas that have been recorded before, with some rarely heard other pieces. Two of these are marked 'Concerto polonois' and written for strings with bass continuo and ensemble throughout - not concertos as we use the term today. The Polish connection is not readily apparent in the music but a brief spell in Silesia at the Court of his employer gave opportunities for travel into Poland and to a man with a lifetime's interest in music from other countries it would have been a chance too good to miss. The two have a similar four movement layout - the opening Dolce in the G major becoming a Polonoise (not unlike a slow minuet) in the B Flat Major. The Allegros (two in each work) are immensely lively, foot-tapping pieces.

The two Divertimentos (String Sinfonias) are unusual. They each begin with a fast movement followed by a series of scherzos that include repeats to provide contrast and variety. The A Major Divertimento has six scherzi with the second, marked poco grave, appearing three times alternating with quick sections while the viola-led sixth scherzo too, was treated in this highly original fashion by being in the centre of a contrasting pairing. The B Flat Major Divertimento follows a similar layout with two of its six scherzi repeated. Novel, but intriguing and it works here, though repeating the formula too often would lose much of its impact.

The three 'proper' Concertos are reasonably well-known and deservedly so. 'Facile' is a term that is sometimes applied to Telemann's compositions as a disparagement - he used it himself speaking of his writing - and these three works are that, but more besides. Melodic, challenging, inventive and immensely rewarding.

The playing of the German ensemble is flawless. Their playing really is special with warmth of tone, some lovely colour from the original instruments and obvious individual skills of the highest level used for the group's good in the best chamber ensemble tradition. The booklet lists the individual instruments used piece-by-piece, a considerable help. A first-class, close but not too forward recording make this disc an easy one to recommend.


Harry Downey

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