Georg Philipp Telemann
Concerti per molti stromenti
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Harmonia Mundi, 2017
Georg Philipp Telemann proclaimed in his autobiography his personal dislike for the concerto, but this did not prevent him to be prolific in this genre as he was in the others and to write one hundred and twenty-five concertos for any kind of instrument and to resort to different models to give them a peculiar and individual character. It is very likely that he made that affirmation to keep distance from the Italian tradition, as he considered poor the Italian concerto as his ears were «accustomed to French music», but it is possible that in his early years he studied the production of Arcangelo Corelli and Giuseppe Torelli, whose music widely circulated in manuscript copies.
Variety and continuous novelty are among the main features of the album by Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Concerti per molti stromenti (literally, “concertos for many instruments”). The album opens with one of few of Telemann’s concertos of which we know the exact date of the premiere and its destination, the Concerto TWV 54:D3. This was the work that opened the festive music which took place in Frankfurt on 17 May 1716 to celebrate the birth of an imperial prince. Telemann, as municipal Kappellmeister, was in charge of programming the music of the event and he was so painstaking that mobilized a hundred musicians, among whom oboist Peter Glösch, the virtuoso for whom he wrote the cantilena and cadenzas of the third movement. The French influence can be immediately perceived in the solemnity and triumphant joy that has no equals in the rest of the album and that would have clarified the purpose for which the concerto was written even without the record of the celebration.
The next works are less sumptuous in their character, but not less surprising and technically elaborated, as in the case of the Concerto TWV 53:h1, with its extravagant second movement (Vivace) and the “chirpy” third and fourth movements (Dolce and Allegro). The real pearl of this concerto is the use of a rare and now obsolete instrument, the calchedon (known also as “galizona”), an instrument present in the Dresden copies of the score but replaced by the bassoon in the later Darmstadt transcription. The use of the original instrument makes this a world premiere recording.
The Concerto TWV 44:43 is characterized by a more tragic atmosphere that is already announced in the first movement (Allegro) and that finds its complete expression in the second (Largo), but the sorrow seems to exhaust itself in this movement and the listener has to wait for the Sonata TWV 44:32 to find a diluted but omnipresent sense of pain that imbued all the pieces of the work. The Concerto TWV 53:F1 is a return to happiness as the sound of the mandolin characterized it with the warmth (in the Allegro and Vivace) and the Mediterranean laziness (in the Largo) of the South. After another sombre parenthesis with the Concerto 53:d1, the last concerto, TWV 54:D2 is a bold and brilliant work, but the album ends with delicateness thanks to the charming Quartet in G major, TWV 43:G5.
The skill, vitality and enthusiasm of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin are out of question and restore the splendour and lightness of Telemann’s concertos presenting them in the most sympathetic way. It is naturally due to its marvellous performance that the above-mentioned impressions came into the mind of the author of this post. The sound is excellent and the orchestral colours and the reverberation of the instruments are clearly distinguishable and highly enjoyable, so that not a nuance is lost. Concerti per molti stromenti is definitely an inspiring album and a fine introduction to Telemann’s music.