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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Overture and Concertos for Darmstadt
Overture (Suite) in F, TWV 55:F3 [24:06]
Violin Concerto in a minor, TWV 51:a1 [7:16]
Flute Concerto in D, TWV 51:D1 [16:15]
Concerto for Flute and Violin in e minor, TWV 52:e3 [9:24]
Flute Concerto in D, TWV 51:D2 [12:49]
Les Ambassadeurs/Alexis Kossenko (transverse flute)
rec. 3, 4 and 7 September 2014, Temple Saint-Marcel, Paris. DDD.
ALPHA COLLECTION 499 [70:23] Previously released as ALPHA 200.

Released at full price as recently as 2015, this very fine recording returns as one of the picks of Alpha’s latest, fifth, series of additions to their mid-price Collection series, selling for around £8.75.

Its original appearance was widely welcomed, not least by David Billinge, who summed up his response thus: ‘I cannot praise this lovely disc highly enough both to those who know Telemann and those still in doubt’ – review. I see that I was rather niggardly, merely pointing out that purchase of the album didn’t involve too much duplication – DL News 2015/3. At least I did call these ‘stylish and well-paced performances sound[ing] very well’.

The music, composed for the Darmstadt court is now housed in the Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek. From this varied collection, containing some of Telemann’s most appealing work, Les Ambassadeurs have made an attractive collection of Overture and Concertos. The Overture TWV55:F3, a suite of dance movements, is worthy to stand alongside Bach’s four better-known works in this style and it’s played with a lilt that ranks with the best recordings of the Bach. Those who hate the horn - prominent here - should stay away; others will enjoy.

The rest of the programme features concertos for flute, violin, and the two together. It’s only fair that director Alexis Kossenko gets the lion’s share of the solo parts – and how he plays! (I’m not much given to exclamations, but the whole team deserve one.)

I said that there was not much overlap with other recommendable collections, but I must list a few for comparison – from which the Alpha reissue emerges at the very least a worthy equal.

The Flute Concerto in D, TWV51:D1 appears on a recent Naxos collection of virtuoso baroque concertos, the title Grand Mogul, taken from Vivaldi’s flute concerto Il gran Mogol. It’s performed by Barthold Kuijken with the Indiana Baroque Orchestra. I liked that recording – review – though marginally preferring some of the music in other contexts, for example the Telemann in the CPO series of his wind concertos from La Stagione. It’s hard not to like the Naxos, but at least equally hard not to enjoy the Alpha.

The other Flute Concerto, TWV51:D2 receives the Reinhard Goebel treatment from Concerto Köln, with Wilbert Hazelzet as the nimble soloist. It’s available as a full-price DG Archiv CD or as a Presto special CD for £9.75 (4767253). With Goebel at the helm, one often gets the feeling that the wheels are about to come off but, though the tempi are marginally faster than Kossenko’s, that’s not the case with this concerto; in fact, you may prefer Hazelzet and Goebel in their sensitive treatment of the third movement, largo. Overall, honours are about even between the two.

I should also mention Simon Standage’s recording of the Violin Concerto, TWV51:a1, and the 5-movement Concerto for Flute and Violin, TWV52:e3, on one of the very fine Chandos series of Telemann recordings made by Collegium Musicum 90 in the 1990s. The other works include the Overture-Suite La Changeante, TWV55:g2, which forms the title of this, the first of the Chandos series (CHAN0519, CD, or download in mp3 or lossless, with pdf booklet, from chandos.net)1. I marginally prefer the sprightly performances on Alpha.  Standage is more mellifluous than Zefira Valova the Alpha violin soloist, but there’s very little in it. It’s possible to prefer one movement from Chandos and another from Alpha, and there’s much else to enjoy on both recordings.

With very good recorded sound, the Alpha reissue is a winner at the new price. I’m not sure that the picture of coloured plastic balls floating on the cover is an improvement on the original painting of monkeys playing (?) backgammon – perhaps it’s meant to support David Attenborough’s anti-plastic campaign. I’m pleased that the booklet notes are largely retained from the original release; they are slightly abridged, but there’s also a link to the original. That’s an improvement on earlier volumes in the series which come with quirky booklets.

There’s so much bounty in Telemann’s locker from this collection alone that you will want to discover more when you have heard this CD. Three different Overture-Suites from the Darmstadt library feature on a Naxos recording in performances by Helmut Müller-Brühl and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra on Naxos 8.554244 (in g minor, TWV55:g4; in C, TWV56:C6, and in D, TWV55:D15). The programme is less varied than the Alpha and the performances – modern instruments but period style – a degree less sprightly, but I enjoyed hearing it. The recording is, if anything, even better than the Alpha. And it’s even less expensive, at around £7.50, or as little as £4.79 for the lossless download with pdf booklet.

Comparatively less expensive still is a 2-CD Teldec Das Alte Werk collection of Darmstadt Overtures from Concentus Musicus Wien and Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Warner 2564690523: TWV55:a2, 55:C6, 55:D15, 55:d3, 55:f1, 55:g4, around £9.50)2.

Telemann’s music really is worth exploring to the full. Not for nothing did the Leipzig town council consider him their preferred candidate, though they did pretty well, as it happened, with Bach. Don’t be surprised if this very fine Alpha reissue leads you discover more. If your credit card is maxed out, there’s always the very useful Naxos Music Library streaming service, where you can find everything that I’ve mentioned in this review. Then there’s the other Darmstadt music, from the court composer Christoph Graupner, another prime candidate for the Leipzig post, but that’s another story. A violin concerto by a later Darmstadt court composer, Johann Kress, features with Telemann and other composers on a recent Audax recording (ADX13716 – review Winter 2018-19/2). First and foremost, however, snap up this Alpha reissue of Telemann.

1 The other works are: Concerto TWV 40:201 in G for 4 violins without basso continuo, Concerto TWV 54:A1 in A for 4 violins, strings & b.c., and Violin Concerto in E TWV 51:E2. Annoyingly, the Chandos booklet doesn’t include the TWV numbers, which have been standard since 1983.

2 Don’t even think of paying the £50.65 being asked by one dealer.

Brian Wilson



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