Telemann: Wind Concertos Vol 2 / Schneider, La Stagione Frankfurt, Camerata Köln
A selection of five wind concertos by Telemann, played by Camerata Köln, with Michael Schneider as director and one of the soloists rang a bell – the sound was coming from a 1991 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi recording (RD77201, no longer available, but a strong candidate for budget- or mid-price reissue). None of its contents overlap with the works on this CPO recording. The quality of that earlier recording and of a later (1996) DHM recording of Telemann by Concerto Köln (“a welcome and pleasing reissue” on mid price 74321 935572 – see MC’s review) gave me high hopes for the new CD – hopes which were not disappointed.
This is the second volume of a planned series and the third is already announced on the CPO website. Volume 1 (777 032-2), released in November, 2007, again featuring a variety of wind instruments, is also a joint enterprise between La Stagione Frankfurt and Camerata Köln. MS gave it a warm welcome – see review – and KS was equally appreciative – see review. KS concluded by saying “one can only salivate a bit for more if this fine disc is a representative harbinger of the entire series.” Clearly it was, at least as far as Volume 2 is concerned.
Both ensembles are excellent. Both represent what I sometimes call authentic performance without the tears. Even the horns sound in tune. Such perfection sometimes comes at the expense of expression, but such is not the case here. I’d have been very hard put to it to establish which group performed which piece, if the booklet had not made the matter clear.
As well as offering splendid direction – tempo, phrasing, everything just right – Michael Schneider is himself the excellent recorder soloist in the first concerto.
The other soloists, though less well known, are equally fine. KS singled out the playing of the horn players, Ulrich Hübner and Jörg Schulteß and the oboist Luise Baumgartl on Volume 1; the playing of all three here in TWV52/D1 and TWV53/d1 respectively, is equally deserving of praise. I can hardly believe that natural horns can be played so securely, but I hesitate to single the horn players out: Martin Stadler as the second oboist and Marita Schaar on bassoon in TWV53/d1 are very good and Hans Peter Westermann, who featured on Camerata’s earlier DHM recording, is an equally adept oboist in TWV51/f1, while Karl Kaiser plays a mean flute in TWV51/G1.
Though made with different groups and at different times over a longish time span, the recordings were all made in the same venue, clearly an excellent choice for recording this music.
The notes in the booklet are very good. Now that the Werner Menke and Martin Ruhnke Telemann Werke Verzeichnis (TWV) provides the established catalogue for Telemann’s works, it is important that recording companies give the details, as here, to avoid purchasing multiple versions of the same works; earlier recordings, like the DHM, did not do so. In many respects, the TWV catalogue is more informative than the equivalent BWV catalogue for Bach: the first number refers to the genre, the letter after the slash gives the key, with lower case for minor keys, the digit gives the number of the concerto – thus TWV51/C1 means the first Concerto in C in category 51.
The recorded sound is first-class – slightly less plush than Camerata Köln’s earlier DHM recordings and better for it, good as the DHM sound is. I find it very difficult to find any fault with this recording – even the booklet appears to be an improvement on the first volume: the English may be a little stilted, but it is perfectly comprehensible.
For those who buy this recording and like what they hear, Volume 3 must surely be the next stop. Meanwhile, however, I can strongly recommend a number of Chandos recordings made by Collegium Musicum 90 and Simon Standage. To pick just two of these, issued before MusicWeb was up and running and, therefore, I believe, never reviewed here.
CHAN0661 begins with the enchanting Concerto in e minor for recorder and flute, which has to be my favourite among the Telemann concertos – just listen to the sample of the finale on the Chandos website to see what I mean. Conventional wisdom would suggest that flute and recorder are too alike to be paired as solo instruments, but Telemann’s speciality was to get away with unlikely pairings: he certainly does so here. The other chief recommendation for this CD is the Ouverture Comique which rounds it off – a musical picture of a gout-stricken man plagued by little devils.
The chief attraction of CHAN0547 is the Alster-Ouverture, a kind of rehearsal for the better-known Hamburg Water Music, but the Grillen-Sinfonie or Cricket Symphony is also very attractive. The horn playing here is slightly less secure than on the new CPO recording – not just in the Alster-Ouverture, where there are some wonderful, intentional, out-of-tune notes in the manner of Mozart’s Musical Joke – but also in the opening Concerto in D for three horns and violin. I don’t want to make too much of this, however; it’s most unlikely to spoil your enjoyment of this excellent recording.
Neither of these Chandos recordings overlaps with the material on the new CPO release and both are also available as downloads from theclassicalshop.net in mp3 and lossless versions. I downloaded one album in mp3 and the other in wma format and both sound excellent. These recordings are also available as mp3s from classicsonline.com.
There are, however, several lower-price Telemann recordings which are well worth hearing. Sadly, the best of these, Telemann’s so-called Water Music (correctly known as Hamburger Ebb’ und Fluth, Hamburg Ebb and Flow), formerly available on a super-budget Eloquence CD (Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel, 469 664-2, with two wind concertos and excerpts from the Tafelmusik) appears to have reverted to its original coupling at full price (413 788 2). Look out for remainders – otherwise, please may we have this and other Goebel recordings of Telemann from Australian Eloquence? Alternatively, you’ll need to pay full price for the King’s Consort version of Ebb’ und Fluth, coupled with Handel’s Water Music on Hyperion CDA66967, also available from iTunes in their superior Plus format.
Sarah Francis and the London Harpsichord Ensemble made some excellent Telemann Oboe Concerto recordings for Unicorn, now licensed to the super-budget label Regis: Volume I is a 2-CD set on RRC2057, Volume II is on one CD, RRC1119.
Naxos, too, have a wealth of low-priced Telemann performances, from their early account of the Suite in a, etc. (8.550156, Capella Istropolitana) to their well-received recordings of the smaller-scale works from Tafelmusik (8.553724/5 and 8.553731). The Freiburg Baroque Consort version of the Flute Quartets is also high on my list (HMA195 1787 – also available as a download from eMusic and iTunes.)
Plenty to be getting on with here, then, even without mentioning any of Telemann’s vocal music. But start your journey with the current CD.
-- Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International
Catalog Number: 777267-2
Composer: Georg Philipp Telemann
Conductor: Michael Schneider
Orchestra/Ensemble: Camerata Köln, La Stagione Frankfurt