This is a novel idea; the Russian period orchestra Pratum Integrum has made, for the Caro Mitis label, a disc entitled Telemann in Minor containing only minor-key works of Georg Philipp Telemann. While it is novel, it's not necessarily a difficult program to assemble, just among his purely orchestral compositions Telemann has no less than seven works in the key of D minor alone. Here, Pratum Integrum offers a selection of two concerti in C and E minor, a pair of sonatas in C and B flat minor, and a never before recorded orchestral suite in A minor. The sonatas come from a grey area within Telemann's literature in which he composed expanded chamber pieces that could be adapted into orchestral pieces with no more than a subtle shift in instrumentation, and he intended them that way. These are very crisp and alert performances and not pieces intended for amateurs -- as so many of Telemann's things are -- but serious, full-fledged efforts that exemplify his mastery and questing spirit.
It is a real pity that so many of Telemann's pieces are both undated and un-datable. One would love, for example, to know if the "Furies" movement in the A minor suite was influenced by Gluck's "Dance of the Furies" in Orfeo ed Euridice -- after all, Telemann was still living in 1762 and very tuned into currents in French music -- or if it was he who influenced Gluck. Turbulent and stormy movements are not foreign to Telemann's works, but the resemblance here is so close. Excitement about the debut work is such that it is hard to miss the balance of what's on the disc, and this is far from being the first, or the best, recording of Telemann's Concerto à Sei for flute, violin and strings, TWV 52:e3. The Sextet for two violins, two viols, cello & continuo, TWV 44:32, is played well, but the remaining performances, while pleasant, are not particularly memorable.
Nevertheless, Pratum Integrum was only founded in 2003 and their work represents progress for Russian period instrument ensembles. Russian groups that want to play Baroque music on original instruments usually have a tough row to hoe, finding it difficult to shake off the fat, romantic string tone taught as a matter of course at the Moscow Conservatory and elsewhere. Moreover, they are often plagued with intonation problems, indeed, even if they can access quality period instruments at all. Such aspect is not wholly absent from this recording, and there is some struggle getting the intonation right between the two oboes in the last movement of the A minor suite. Pratum Integrum, however, has studied with the Kuijkens, Bergen Barokk, and Il Gardellino and is really making the effort to come up to speed with the standard set in greater Europe; Telemann in Minor is decidedly a step in the right direction.