LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Paris Quartet No. 1; Paris Quartet No. 2; Paris Quartet No. 3; Paris Quartet No. 4; Paris Quartet No. 5; Paris Quartet No. 6
PERFORMER: Freiburg Baroque Consort
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901787
The quartets collected here provided the content of Telemann’s first printed anthology of such pieces. Issued in Hamburg in 1730 they circulated widely and in 1736 appeared in a pirated Parisian edition. The following year Telemann himself arrived in Paris at the invitation of musicians who greatly admired his forward-looking and eclectic style and in 1738 he published six Nouveaux quatuors. It is these altogether more ambitious works rather than the pieces on this disc which truly qualify as Paris Quartets. But the earlier set, consisting of two concertos, two sonatas and two suites, is hardly less appealing with its skilfully crafted counterpoint, its lucid textures and its warmly affecting musical dialogue.
The Freiburg Baroque Consort explores the music’s many expressive nuances with spirit and sensibility. The ensemble-playing is more polished than that of Gustav Leonhardt and the Kuijken brothers (Sony) and livelier than the restrained performances of Sonnerie (Virgin). Yet there is a unanimous spirit of music-making present in the Kuijken set which is of more enduring appeal. The musical gestures of the Freiburg ensemble are more pronounced than the intimate conviviality of Leonhardt and the Kuijkens, and I sometimes felt its more tautly argued dialogue showed up persuasively against the other. The luminous opening movement of the Sonata prima, perhaps the most beguiling of the entire set, and the tender Affetuoso of the Concerto secondo are limpidly played, yet the somewhat hollow, reverberant acoustic detracts from its charm.
In summary, while readers will find little if anything to disappoint them here, they may feel more irresistibly drawn in by Leonhardt and the Kuijkens. Nicholas Anderson