One of the features of Telemann's compositional style that lends enchantment to his music is his skill in blending contrapuntal discipline with the more readily accessible syntax and inflexions of the early classical period. Telemann was admired by his contemporaries above all for his chamber music, especially trios, and it is these which occupy the greater part of an attractive programme by Ensemble Meridiana. Two of the trios belong to Telemann's fine chamber music anthology Essercizii Musici (c1739), while another well-known piece for recorder is by Pierre Prowo, a younger contemporary working in Hamburg during Telemann's long period in office there, and who clearly was influenced by the older composer's style.
Among the most pleasing and accomplished items here, though, are two quartets for recorder, oboe, violin and basso continuo. These are not quartets in the sense that we generally understand the term today but chamber concertos in which each part other than the continuo has an obbligato role. Here, as so often, Telemann reveals his practical understanding of the colour, character and tonal strengths of each instrument. The invigorating Concerto in G major is perhaps the first among the present group to have found favour with performers in modern times, having appeared in classical record catalogues as early as the mid-1950s. The A minor Concerto is altogether a more substantial work, with a strong Vivaldian flavour in the extended solo violin passage of its concluding movement. Ensemble Meridiana performs both pieces with sensibility and well-balanced ensemble in the ritornello sections. Reinhard Goebel and members of Cologne Musica Antiqua put up hot competition in a recording issued in 2005, but … my preference lies with the more expressively relaxed playing of Ensemble Meridiana.
The somewhat melancholic Trio in E minor for two ‘dessus' or upper-voiced instruments is of an entirely different character. Recorder and violin are the protagonists here … both work well and would probably have earned approval from instrumentally polymathic Telemann. The character of this Trio is predominantly French, passages of which were cited by Quantz in his Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen ('Essay of a Method for playing the Tranverse Flute').
While pretty well everything on this disc can be found elsewhere in the catalogue a Largo from a Trio in B minor for violin, viola da gamba and continuo is perhaps the exception; and it is a rewarding one and new to my ears … the disc is sympathetically recorded and well worth investigation.