There is only one work here from Telemann’s famous Tafelmusik, the F Major Concerto for three violins, TWV53:F1. But this new release from one of the world’s great period bands is, if not so vast a feast, a musical offering every bit as rich and spicy. More so, perhaps, because the range of solo instruments employed in these concertos is colourful even by the prolific Telemann’s standards. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Peter Huth, inspired by a version for three harpsichords from Telemann’s time, has arranged the above work for three diverse non-bowed instruments: mandolin, hammered dulcimer and double harp.
Bookending the recording are suitably festive, open-air works, one for three trumpets, two oboes and timpani, the other for three horns and violin. In between, there is the concerto for three oboes and three violins, and an exquisite concerto for two flutes and calchedon (a variety of long-necked lute that Telemann used extensively, though mainly in a supportive role in the bass). Two more intimate works – a sonata for string quintet and the Adagio movement from the concerto in G Major for string quartet – fill out the programme.
Huth’s booklet note reminds us of Telemann’s Italian and French models, as well as the similarities between his practice and the more colourful musical excursions of JS Bach, in particular the Brandenburg Concertos. It is also well to recall that a work’s genesis often has more to do with the forces available to the composer at the time, both in terms of instruments and level of skill, than with pure imagination – though the two are often inextricably linked.
One wonders what Telemann might have done if he had an ensemble such as the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin at his disposal, themselves so imaginative with, and so responsive to, the rhythms, melodies, colours, textures and opportunities for extemporisation that this extraordinary and endlessly entertaining music supplies.