Telemann: The Autograph Scores / Standage, Collegium Musicum 90

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TELEMANN Suites: in F, TWV 55:F16 ; in A, TWV 55:A7 ; in D, TWV 55:D23 . Concerto in D for Strings, TWV 43:D4 . Fanfare in D, TWV 50:44 . Divertimento in E?, TWV 50:21 Simon Standage, cond; Collegium Musicum 90 (period instruments) CHACONNE 0787 (79:18)

It seems like the Telemann fountain is flowing full force nowadays, with a number of recordings appearing like clockwork each month, and I’ve no doubt that the vast number of his compositions are very much in danger of being all recorded, that is, those that haven’t been lost. This disc brings together a selection of instrumental pieces performed by the venerable Simon Standage with the equally venerable and reputable Collegium Musicum 90, which he founded with the late Richard Hickox. Indeed, the Telemann offerings by this ensemble and its director are of such number, variety, and excellence that they were awarded the Telemann prize in 2010, an honor that shows their stature in this massive revival.

This disc does not disappoint, either, although only one of the six works presented is given its world premiere. This is the Divertimento in E?, which seems in every other way little more than a conventional suite of French dances but contains a rather nice dramatic element in the movement titles that offer something more than expected. It would seem that for someone who wrote such a tremendous amount of music, one would have scads of autographs all about, but in Telemann’s case, oddly enough, these seem to be a rarity. As few as 18 of the instrumental works exist in his own hand, nine of which are actually in a single collection written for and dedicated to the Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, Ludwig VIII. This disc takes three of these works, written when the composer was 86 years old in 1766, opera ultima if ever there were. The remaining three are earlier, probably closer to 1708 or so when he was Kapellmeister at Sorau in Silesia, now Poland. It is no matter, for the thread that links them is that all are in the French style, dances that alternate fast and slow in the manner of the suite. Only in the Overture-Suite in A Major (titled Concert en Ouverture ) is there a hint of a soloist, in this case a vehicle for violinist Standage to shine. More interestingly, however, is that three of the works from late in the composer’s life include a pair of horns, as well as flutes, coming close to the standard Classical-period orchestra.

Since most have been recorded before, only a few words will suffice about the works themselves. The F-Major suite is very Handelian, with exaggerated French dotted rhythms at the opening, but the harmonies momentarily veer off into strange areas, one of Telemann’s trademarks, as is the outdoorsy feel of the Allegro section with its hunting calls. In the Bourrée that follows, the horns begin this dance in their high register, adding tonal punch to the line, but in the second part, the folk-song character in the decisive rhythms makes a nice complement. The final movement is titled “The Tempest,” and the skirling strings and echoing horns entrances, not to mention a nice crescendo at the beginning of each section, is quite dramatic. In the concerto grosso, I find the opening Andante amusing, almost like Telemann is teaching his ensemble exercises, but his penchant for folk rhythms reasserts itself in the Vivace that follows. One might also note the perpetual-motion finale of the A-Major suite, with its maniacal Gigue and final unexpected cadential flourish. The Divertimento is a perfect little gem, almost a dramatic and very civilized scene that begins with a quick awakening, a mincing gavotte that evokes a conversation at the table, and a brief hunt. Here we are more in the world of early Classicism than the rather more Baroque style of the remainder of the works on the disc.

About the performances themselves, Collegium Musicum 90 is up to its usual standard of excellence. The interpretation is finely nuanced, the attention to dynamic and rhythmic contrast clear, and the intonation spot-on. This rapport is clearly something that Standage and his group have achieved over the years, and this disc only adds to an already world-class reputation. I find some nice surprises, such as the rather prominent horns in the opening movement of the F-Major overture, which I suspect may have been playing bells-up in order to achieve the bucolic sound, very different from the more refined work elsewhere. The flutes are equally clear in their performances. All around, this disc can be highly recommended, even if you have most of the works on other recordings. I would make this one your standard.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CHAN 0787

  • UPC: 095115078723

  • Label: Chandos

  • Composer: Georg Philipp Telemann

  • Conductor: Simon Standage

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90