Solo violinist and director of the ensemble, Rainer Kussmaul, is a strong player whose feeling for graceful gestures in slow movements and scintillating passagework in faster ones is rewardingly communicative. Oboist Albrecht Mayer brings that distinctive, warmly rounded German tone to the D minor Concerto, phrasing the music with elegance and expressive sensibility. Among other highlights is the limpid playing of Kussmaul and his violinist partner Rüdiger Liebermann in the A major Concerto. In summary, this is a programme full of interesting and affecting byways, convincingly performed and very well recorded.
Record Review /
International Record Review (London) / 01. February 2006
. . . it's an absolute charmer. Note that it isn't on DG's Archiv label: this is not a period-instrument band but a flexible ensemble of players moonlighting from the Berlin Philharmonic, no less . . . the playing of the concerto has a wonderful vitality . . . In fact, lightness -- of touch, not of content -- best sums up this disc: one that shows a perfect blend of 'modern' playing with 'historical' awareness.
Record Review /
Gramophone (London) / 01. March 2006
Albrecht Mayer's playing of the solo part is quite outstanding: highly expressive and shapely in the slower movements, and brilliantly executed in the Vivace (ii) and Allegro (iv).
Record Review /
Fanfare (Tenafly, NJ) / 01. July 2006
. . . el buen gusto y la belleza del fraseo, la finura de la expresión.
Record Review /
Miguel Ángel de las Heras,
Ritmo (Madrid) / 01. February 2006
La belleza de la obra [el Concierto para violín en Mi mayor, 51:E3] permite el lucimiento de Rainer Kussmaul, violinista, director y auténtico «alma mater» de los Berliner Barock Solisten
Record Review /
CD Compact (Barcelona) / 01. February 2006
Sinfonia Melodica - Telemann Discoveries
When Telemann died in 1767, after a long and hugely productive life, he was the most famous German composer of his generation. But his reputation as a composer of instrumental music had reached its zenith 30 years earlier, enhanced by the appearance of such stunning collections as the Musique de Table (1733), and the Quadri (1730) and Nouveaux Quatuors (1738) - the so-called "Paris Quartets". Telemann's later success was also the fruit of diligent early study. As a young composer in 1705-8, during his first court appointment at Sorau (now Zary in Poland), he mastered the French style of Jean-Baptiste Lully and fell in love with Polish and Hanakian (south Moravian) folk music. Then, at Eisenach (1708-12), he turned his attention to the composition of solo concertos, especially those for violin. At first, Telemann had doubts about the newly imported genre. Compared with his beloved French music, so many Italian concertos seemed to value virtuosity more highly than musical content. These were unkind to his bowing-arm, he complained, adding that "one encounters many difficulties and awkward leaps, but little harmony and even worse melody". Despite his reservations, however, he was soon composing concertos of his own.
The Concerto in A major (TWV 52:A2) for two violins, strings and continuo probably dates from his years in Eisenach, where the composer often joined his colleague Pantaleon Hebenstreit as a violin soloist. Such was Hebenstreit's skill, Telemann later recalled, "that when we had to play a [double-violin] concerto with one another, I locked myself up several days in advance, fiddle in hand, with my left arm's shirt-sleeve rolled up and strong refreshment to steady my nerves, and set about serious practice. I was able thereby to progress and almost match his great mastery".
The fragmentary Concerto in D minor (TWV 51:d2) for oboe, strings and continuo was probably composed between 1716 and 1721 at Frankfurt. It follows Telemann's favourite four-movement plan, in which a melodious slow movement precedes the usual fast-slow-fast pattern of the Venetian concerto. With its chromatic twists and turns, this work offers the soloist strikingly idiomatic writing, while never sacrificing melodic quality for empty virtuoso display.
Perhaps the most interesting work in this recording is another fragment: the E major Concerto (TWV 51:E3) for solo violin, strings and continuo. Attributed in its badly damaged Dresden source to "Melante" (Telemann's Italian anagram from his Frankfurt period, 1712-21), the music has required much editorial reconstruction. The first allegro begins with intrada-like music, in which orchestral chords and solo fanfares are answered by the orchestra in typically syncopated, folk-music rhythms. Both ritornello-based fast movements present the soloist with extensive opportunities for bravura display. In complete contrast, the middle movement reveals the composer at his most lyrical, as the violin, like an operatic soloist, sings a siciliano-style cantilena, supported only by the continuo.
The Sonata in E flat major (TWV 43:Es1) offers the listener a very different type of concerted experience, for it is really a concerto ripieno for four-part strings and continuo - but with no soloist! 18 of these works survive, and this example, composed by around 1716 and attributed to "Melante", is one of the most radiant. (Initially, the sources called it "Concerto", but these terms for the Vivaldian concertoa quattro were interchangeable in Germany.) Its four melodious movements illustrate the composer's lifelong passion for and ease in combining national styles, his music contributing to the "mixed taste" described by German critics from the mid-1720s. The opening movement is influenced by the dignified dotted rhythms of the French overture. Next comes a stylish, Italianate allegro, in which the first violin's florid concertante semiquavers (16th-notes) make it sound almost, in places, like a genuine soloist. The spirit of Corelli, brought up to date with galant triplets, underlies the frequent suspensions heard both here and in the third movement. The latter - a short, bridge-like adagio - leads to the elegant finale, essentially a stylish menuet in binary form.
The chief French-style orchestral genre in early 18th-century Germany was the overture-suite inherited from Lully and his disciples. In this form, a French overture, in which majestic outer sections frame a quicker fugal one, is followed by a suite of dance or dance-like movements, and Telemann was one of its greatest exponents. More than 100 such works survive, spanning all periods of his career. The overture on this disc (TWV 55:c4) is preserved in a Darmstadt manuscript copied in c.1721-3, though it may have been composed earlier. However, the rich harmonies, strong melodic and fugal writing, and the textural and rhythmic variety, all testify to the composer's complete early mastery of the form. Interestingly, it is one of only two surviving examples in which the overture was copied without any subsequent movements. Like so many Telemann overtures, it incorporates short concerted episodes (here scored for a solo violin and two oboes) in the fast middle section.
In 1766, just a year before his death, the octogenarian composer proved that his imagination was as fertile as ever. With failing eyesight, and in handwriting that often borders on the undecipherable, he copied ten instrumental works intended as a gift for Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Hessen-Darmstadt. In this splendid collection - his swan-song as a composer of instrumental music - Telemann combines French, Italian and Polish styles with consummate skill. Almost all of these works are related in some way to the Baroque dance suite, and the Sinfonia Melodica in C major (TWV 50:2) for two oboes, strings and continuo is no exception. (The term "sinfonia" had been used by the Austrian composer Fux more than 60 years earlier for a French-style suite with an Italianate opening movement.) But if Telemann's choice of two oboes seems reminiscent of Lully, his music is infinitely more Italianate and up-to-date. These qualities are clearest in the extensive (and almost symphonic) opening Vivace assai, with its oboe solos and transparent textures, and lacking any hint of the French ouverture. Similarly, the last four dances, with their light three-part scoring and galant simplicity, are no less progressive; but the noble Sarabande and spirited Bourrée, both in C minor, remain more traditionally French in their four-part texture.