Telemann: Chamber music treasures from Dresden and Darmstadt (2)

Les Esprits Animaux
Musica Ficta MF8029

This is the second review of this recording we have received. You can find the other here.

Those with knowledge of Telemann’s biography will know that he worked in neither Dresden nor Darmstadt, all the works recorded here linked with those centres by their inclusion in libraries in one or, in the cases of the popular Concerto alla Polonaise and the D-minor Concerto, both cities. Their diffusion testifies to the widespread popularity of Telemann’s works beyond the cities in which he worked. It must be added that his authorship of the concertos in B flat and D remains conjectural; on the evidence of the ear alone, I would certainly be inclined to suspect the former as a work of Telemann’s. It is much the least inventive of this group of works, with a Rococo-style opening Allegro that even at five minutes outstays its welcome. The four-movement D-major Concerto for flute and strings is another matter. Opening with an easy flowing Intrada with interesting ‘riffs’ for violin and cello periodically breaking out, it continues with an appealing Aria in which the flute takes the ‘vocal’ part, a brief, lively Gavotte and a graceful Minuet featuring a solo cello in the central section. The presence of three first recordings (TWV 43:G8; the B flat; and the Intrada) would commend the CD to the attention of Telemanniacs if nothing else did.

In fact there is a much more to it than that. For some years Les Esprits Animaux has shown itself to be one of the foremost Baroque chamber ensembles, its performances above all notable for a sense of spontaneity rarely encountered in this repertoire. Mention above of the word ‘riffs’, more frequently associated with jazz, was not accidental, for there is a strong feeling of the improvisatory about all Les Esprits do. The music lives from bar to bar, every gesture counting and contributing to an exhilarating sense of fantasy, of bizzarie. It is necessary to go no further than the beguiling opening Dolce of the Concerto alla Polonaise to hear the stylishly delicate manner in which first violinist Javier Lupiáñez embellishes repeats to know there will be nothing routine about these beautifully played and balanced performances. Caveats? Well, just occasionally I feel the animal spirits run away with the performers a little too much, leading them to excessively fast tempi, as in the Allegro ma non troppo finale of TWV43:G8. Other than that this a disc that conveys the sheer joy of music making to a degree rarely experienced. If you’ve yet to catch up with the unbounded pleasure of listening to Les Esprits Animaux this is the time to rectify the omission.

Brian Robins

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