Elizabeth Wallfisch

Telemann: Complete Violin Concertos, Vol. 3

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The advantage of the CPO label's completist approach to recording Telemann is that it hits the oddball works, which in this composer's case are often the most interesting. Under the unpromising title Complete Violin Concertos, Vol. 3, are collected a pair of extremely unusual pieces that can only with difficulty be placed under the concerto heading. The term overture concerto used here is apparently the invention of musicologist Steven Zahn; it is not clear what Telemann himself would have called the first two works on the album. Elsewhere these pieces have simply been called overtures. At any rate, an overture concerto is a French overture or orchestral suite in the typical late Baroque manner, with an opening overture (just to make things confusing) followed by a sequence of dance movements. The wrinkle is that both suites feature episodes with solo violin. In the opening Overture Concerto in D major, TWV 55:D14, Telemann treats this set of formal possibilities with characteristic freedom and imagination. He outdoes himself in the A major Overture Concerto, TWV 55:A7, where after an impressive, almost reckless opening overture with several false changes in key, Telemann writes a series of movements with the title "Invention." Some of them resemble dances from suites, but all live up to their name with unexpected twists. The final Concerto for two violins, strings, and continuo in G major is experienced as a return to reality after these exceptionally free-spirited works, which are played to the hilt by Baroque violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch and her hand-picked Wallfisch Band. The sole complaint here is rather brittle church sound; the performances are superb and can even be recommended as an introduction to why Telemann, so often derided as dull, leaves some people completely hooked.

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