That Telemann's music has many styles – coherent and all distinctly his, but varied – must be one of the the first aspects of the music that strikes a listener who is either new to it altogether, or re-examining, or examining it more deeply. Here is a gem of a CD that illustrates that point nicely. The nine-person group, The Publick Musick, plays a program of seven Trio Sonatas by Telemann – in a variety of keys and for a variety of combinations of instruments.
A glance at some of the markings for the movements of these works is a first indication that they contain music of special caliber. Tendrement, Affettuoso,Viste Gay all (rightly) suggest that Telemann was aiming for moods and feelings both of a more personal, and – if the approach of this ensemble is anything to go by – a more intimate nature. For the group's playing is both gentle and vigorous, precise (as in the way they hold the rhythm in second movement of the Trio in E, TWV 42: e11 [tr.6], for instance) and somehow very human… and not merely thanks to the presence of three sonorously and sensitively-played wind instruments. James Bobb's harpsichord continuo bends and moulds its pace and attacks and decays in beautiful accord with the melodies articulated by the others.
Indeed, there is so much contrast within some of the Sonatas – almost within some individual movements – that one is tempted to begin to think of them almost symphonically! Not that The Publick Musick makes a meal of the textures and relationships of the various sounds one to the others. But that they are highly attuned to the musical structures to which Telemann was appealing; and – again if the way these players see it is convincing – with which he was evidently so fascinated. And it is a convincing approach: the sensitivity with which such movements as the same Trio's last, fast movement [tr.8] emerge makes Telemann sound almost humble.
Yet neither tentative nor experimental. Just someone who'd absorbed French and Italian influences, taken from them the best he could. And was beginning to fashion a style of his own. So if you're unaware of just what riches Telemann produced in such a genre, and/or want to hear ensemble playing that's tight, pleasing, well disciplined and full of expression and liberal delight at the music, then this CD (which contains music otherwise unrecorded elsewhere) should be explored without hesitation.
The acoustic is close with depth. The booklet appropriately informative. The instruments used in the recordings are reproductions, apart from Stephanie Vial's cello, which is by William Foster from c. 1785. So the variety and stimulation one gets from the delicacy (and always the balance) of instrumental combinations (violin(s), flute(s), oboe + violin, flute + strings, all with continuo) is pleasing in itself. But, as has been said, our joy is in the melodic, rhythmic and architectural progressions that Telemann created so imaginatively. And which The Publick Musick handles so well. A crystalline and persuasive hour of communicative playing from Centaur that is recommended without reservation.
Copyright © 2010, Mark Sealey.