Amarillis is a French ensemble formed in the previous decade to perform Baroque music in period style. This is their ninth recording. The ensemble can be larger or smaller depending on the repertoire. For the present recording, the musicians are Héloïse Gaillard (artistic direction, Baroque recorder, and oboe), Violaine Cochard (harpsichord), David Plantier (violin), Emmanuel Jacques (cello), and Laura Monica Pustilnik (archlute).
Telemann's wit and variety are showcased on this lively, delightful recording. He traveled extensively (thus this CD's subtitle of "Voyageur virtuose"), and he soaked up musical influences from all over Europe like a sponge soaks up wine. Although Johann Sebastian Bach might have been a greater composer, Telemann was more cosmopolitan. Five of the six works presented here are trio sonatas – that is, sonatas for two instruments plus basso continuo. (Ambroisie quaintly translates the latter as "continuous bass.") In each one of these trio sonatas, a wind instrument shares prominence with a string instrument or with the harpsichord. In the trio sonatas in which the harpsichord is one of the featured instruments, its customary role in the basso continuo is taken over by the archlute, which has a highly agreeable timbre. Four of the trio sonatas are taken from the collection known as Essercizii Musici (Musical Exercises), which is comprised of a dozen solo sonatas and a dozen trio sonatas for various instruments. The entire collection is worth exploring.
Amarillis is one of those Baroque ensembles whose style of music-making is assertive, sometimes even to the point of roughness. It's not that the playing is not technically polished, it's just that it is never allowed to be merely polite and refined. When the music dances, there is no holding it down, and when it sighs, it practically swoons. I like the playing on this CD a lot, but this is not your grandfather's Telemann!
Ambroisie's superb recording enhances the immediacy of the musicianship. Gaillard's booklet notes paint a genial portrait of the composer, although more might have been said about the music itself. The inclusion of TWV (Telemann Werkverzeichnis) numbers for these works would have been helpful. On a mixed program such as this one, it can be hard to know just what you're getting into until you read the fine print.
Copyright © 2007, Raymond Tuttle