“The Saxon Alternative”
TWV44:2, 7, & 14; TWV55:c3, B3
This fabulous recording is devoted to one of the less well-known repositories of baroque music. As well as maintaining “Kapelle” (ensembles made up of singers and instrumentalists who were as capable of performing sacred as secular music), many German courts – in imitation of Louis XIV – maintained an “hautboistenband”, a separate group of musicians who served a different purpose. Their precise function remains cloudy (there are records, for example, of court musicians being paid to teach the “hautboisten” to play the violin), but Belinda Paul’s informative booklet notes are right to suggest that the classical “Harmonie” did not simply appear out of thin air – the involvement of instruments other than double reeds (and the ability of “hautboisten” to play them) was a long tradition. The CD’s title derives from the fact that Saxon bands regularly featured a pair of horns; thus the recording features two overtures for five-part winds, two for the saxon variant (pairs of oboes, horns and bassoons) and a concerto for pairs of oboe d’amore, horns and bassoons (all with harpsichord continuo).
It will surprise no-one that Telemann manages to delight the ear with what might seem like limited resources. The blend of double reeds and horns (especially oboes d’amore and horns!) is gorgeous, especially when recorded in such a generous but not over-resonant acoustic. The individual movements of the suites take on a character of their own, with the composer’s mischievous sense of humour never far from the surface (just listen to La Grimace and I defy you not to smile…) It’s all such fun that I can even forgive Dan Tidhar for using the lute stop on track 16. I hope we will hear more of this repertoire from Syrinx (or even some of the cantatas mentioned in the booklet – I have edited several…)