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CD Review

Georg Philipp Telemann

Complete Violin Concertos, Volume 3

  • Overture Concerto in D Major, TWV 55:D14
  • Overture Concerto in A Major, TWV 55:A7
  • Overture Concerto in G Major, TWV 52:G1 1
Elizabeth Wallfisch, violin
1 Susan Carpenter-Jacobs, violin
The Wallfisch Band/Elizabeth Wallfisch
CPO 777473-2
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This CD is the third in a series containing all Telemann's violin concerti. Volumes 1 and 2 are available on CPO 999900-2 and 999089-2. It must be said at the start that the playing of Elizabeth Wallfisch and the Wallfisch Band is of a very high standard. They match poise and elegance with drive… qualities that Telemann would have endorsed. Listen to the way the ideas unfold in the Invention iv of the A major Concerto [tr.12], for example: a mixture of Vivaldian intervals and Lullyan rhythms. Or in the contrasts as the opening movements of the D Major work [tr.s 1,2] take us through all sorts of rhythmic and phrasing twists and turns; yet somehow convey a sense of continuity. Real virtuosity, yet lightly worn.

Indeed, Telemann's concerti are packed with melody, variety and impact. The composer held it very important to ensure that his works were enjoyed. A cerebral approach is not Telemann's approach. Which is not to say that these works are slight. They are really orchestral suites with no great separate role for soloist in the sense that Tartini or Geminiani understood the idea. Yet they do explore the timbres of ensemble and instrumental sound… Telemann was clearly fascinated by the characteristics of string instruments.

As the CD progresses, you can almost hear the delight with which Wallfisch and her group attack each new movement, section and phrase. There is a certainty borne of real familiarity with these crisp, yet mellow, works. But it's not a certainty in any way pompous or overblown. Rather, a delight in the invention and somewhat relaxed way in which Telemann has seen each new idea through. The final vivace of the G Major [tr.18] is a good example. In barely three minutes these musicians expose Telemann's command of tempo, rhythm and melody in a way that commends the movement to us as something entirely new – despite the fact that the composer was experimenting in a number of ways. Perhaps for a specific occasion and/or assemblage of performing talent? Perhaps as a way to elicit a chuckle in his listeners? Perhaps merely… "because he could". At any rate the result is pleasing and repays careful repeated listening so special are the treats the apparently confident music tends to hide. Again, it's to Wallfisch's credit that the result sounds so natural while not concealing the inevitable tensions that result from such experimentation.

That idea of repeated listening and of thus deriving from each new exposure something new, different and deeper is an important one. Without playing in too demonstrative a way, these musicians manage to commend to us the notion that the music is indeed full of layers to be revealed successively. A reference here, an implied piece of ornamentation there – and a care for and meticulous working of melodic and harmonic ideas almost throughout: these are at the core of the musical impetus of these concerti. And the far from perfunctory playing of Wallfisch and her group lets the music breathe in such a way from beginning to end. At the same time the interpretations are conceived on levels that make them very approachable… one can imagine sitting in on contemporary performances and getting a nod and a smile from the players between movements. But without ever removing the veneer of invention from Telemann's conceptions. Very satisfying.

The acoustic is clean and assists in our clear appreciation of this intriguing music by Telemann. The booklet has introductions in English, French and German which are useful if a little hard to read because of their small font. None of these concerti appears to exist anywhere on current recordings. That makes this CD an even more attractive buy.

Copyright © 2010, Mark Sealey.