Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Telemann from Toulouse: music for strings in stylish modern instrument performances

Telemann: Don Quixote
Georg Philipp Telemann Suite 'Don Quixotte'; Anne Gaurier, Orchestre de Chambre de Toulouse, Gilles Colliard; Calliope Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 8 May 2019 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
A lively selection of four of Telemann's works for string orchestra in stylish modern-instrument performances.

The sheer size and diversity of Georg Philipp Telemann's output means that many admirable pieces get lost or ignored. On this disc from Calliope, the Orchestre de Chambre de Toulouse, director Gilles Colliard bring together four of Telemann's delightful works for string orchestra. The best known is the Suite 'Don Quixotte (Burlesque de Quixotte) but just as deserving of our attention are the Concerto for Viola da Gamba in A major with soloist Anne Gaurier, the Ouverture in G major 'La bizarre' and the Ouverture in D.

We start with the Suite 'Don Quixotte', which consists of an overture (in the French style) and seven short descriptive movements. Under Gilles Colliard's direction the orchestra attacks the overture with great gusto and vivid energy, though perhaps the overall feeling is a little too hard edged and you wished they would relax a little. Later on in Le reveile de Quixotte and Les soupires amoreux apres la princess dulcinee the atmosphere is charmingly gentle, but other movements like the attack on the windmills are as vividly pressed forward as the overture. Colliard certainly brings a wide range of colours from his modern instrument group, and there is much to enjoy here though I wanted the faster moments to relax somewhat.

Telemann wrote quite a bit of music for the viola da gamba, some for the German-born, French-trained virtuoso Christian Hesse (1676-1762). Telemann's viola da gamba concerto is his only surviving solo concerto for the instrument, though he did write a considerable amount of music featuring the instrument. In four movements, slow, fast, slow, fast, it combines stylish French-style musical structures with music of great charm. The lovely slow movement 'Soave' is followed by a perky 'Allegro', an 'Adagio' where time seems to stop with a highly characterful 'Allegro' to finish. Throughout Anne Gaurier makes a stylish and elegant soloist.

The Ouverture 'La bizarre' is a suite which combines dance movements, Courante, Gavotte, Sarabande etc with two more fantastical movements 'Fantasy' and 'Rossignol'. From the beginning of the overture we have irregular rhythmical motifs which seem to give the suite its 'Bizarre' title, though Telemann weaves the music into some striking counterpoint too. The short movements are highly coloured, yet seem eminently danceable, with 'Fantasy' giving us a real high-energy moment and the final movement 'Rossignol' is perhaps the liveliest nightingale that I have ever come across.

For the second suite, the Ouverture in D the orchestra is re-joined by gamba player Anne Gaurier and the orchestration here features the instrument in a concertante role to add striking colours to the textures. Again, a sequence of dance movements, starting with a long overture and then a brilliant 'La trompette' following.

Recording here with an ensemble of 11 string players, the Orchestre de Chambre de Toulouse is a modern-instrument ensemble founded in 1953 whose repertoire ranges from Baroque to contemporary.

This is a highly attractive disc, and Colliard and his players show that Telemann's string writing can work very well on modern instruments. Throughout they take quite a high energy approach, which pays dividends in the brilliance and energy of the playing, the character and colour they bring to the music, though occasionally Colliard pushes tempi a little too far. Anne Gaurier makes a stylish partner in the two concertante viola da gamba works.

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) - Suite Don Quixotte (Burlesque de Don Quixotte)
Georg Philipp Telemann - Concerto for Viola da Gamba in A major
Georg Philipp Telemann - Ouverture in G major 'La Bizarre'
Georg Philipp Telemann - Ovuberture in D
Anne Gaurier (viola da gamba)
Orchestre de Chambre de Toulouse
Gilles Colliard (conductor)
Recorded 28-30 August 2017, auditorium l'Escale de Tournefeuille
CALLIOPE CAL1960 1CD [64.59]
Available from Amazon.

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