A Life-Enhancing Evening of Bach and Telemann

10/06/2018

Telemann: Forgotten Genius of the High Baroque: The Feinstein Ensemble (Martin Feinstein [flute], Miki Takahashi [violin], Christopher Suckling [cello/viola da gamba], Robin Bigwood [harpsichord]}. Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London, 9.6.2018. (CC)

The Finestein Ensemble

Bach – Trio Sonata in E minor for flute, violin & continuo (after Organ Trio in D minor, BWV527); Trio Sonata in G for flute, violin & continuo (after Organ Trio in E flat, BWV525)

TelemannEssercizii Musici: Trio in B minor, TWV42:h4; Quartet in A for flute, violin, viola da gamba & continuo, `Paris Quartet No.3′; Der getreue Musikmeister: Cello Sonata in D, TWV41:D6; Quartet in E minor for flute, violin, viola da gamba & continuo, `Paris Quartet No.12′

Performances of Bach’s Organ Trios (a set of six, BWV 525-30) in chamber or even orchestral guise are relatively common. In recording terms, one remembers London Concertante’s recording on Somm in transcriptions by Nicholas Jackson – for flute, violin and basso continuo – and by Robert King, too, as offered transcriptions, while the Dynamic label offers Stefano Bagliano and Ottavio Dantone in a version for flute and continuo (i.e., no violin, which seems a little limited). After all, this practice was more than commonplace in Bach’s time. The Organ Trios were most likely written in the earlier part of Bach’s Leipzig years. Transferring the organ pieces to flute, violin and basso continuo adds a certain light freshness to the scores, something captured well by The Feinstein Ensemble. In the E minor Trio Sonata that opened, the most confident of the group was Feinstein himself; Miki Takahashi’s violin seemed rather restrained (she adjusted to the acoustic well thereafter, though). The highlight was the gallant Adagio e dolce central panel.

The organisation of the repertoire for this concert was well managed, each half starting with a Bach Organ Trio, following on with a work by Telemann before a final Telemann Paris Quartet. The first half offered Telemann’s Trio in B minor from Essercizii Musici, heard in a bright, open performance, Telemann’s impeccably crafted music exuding pure joy. The sense of a conversation between artists was palpable, Christopher Suckling’s virtuoso contribution on viola da gamba a highlight, while the third movement dolce held Feinstein and Suckling, two big musical characters, in dialogue.

It was lovely to hear two of the Telemann Paris Quartets in this concert. The first was the A major, magical in its violin ‘accompaniments’ to the flute but with Suckling’s contribution just a touch laboured. It was the layered entries in the third movement (Andante) that were perhaps most memorable here.

There was a similar format for the second part of the evening, with Bach’s Organ Trio in E flat, BWV525 heard in G major in a version for flute, violin and continuo. Here, imitation was beautifully managed between the players, the central Adagio having a siciliano feel to it (superb ornamentation from Takahashi) before the finale emerged, a celebration of the act of counterpoint.

It was a delight to hear one of Telemann’s Cello Sonatas (D major), performed by violin and harpsichord. Here, Robin Bigwood, whose contributions were stylish throughout, had a chance to shine more and he embraced it with aplomb, both players exuding a sense of exploration in the opening Lento, with Suckling’s Baroque cello projected perfectly. The large intervallic leaps that characterise the first Allegro brought drama. The ensuing Largo acted like a slower-paced prolongation of this before an allegro brought us back into the light (the cellist’s glasses going flying at the very final gesture).

Finally, the E minor Paris Quartet, a work of huge depth and drama. The overtly gestural Prélude: À discretion held some superb contributions from Takahashi in particular, while the volatility of the third movement, with its sudden explosions of sound, was remarkable. Takahashi again impressed in her ‘echoes’ at the ends of phrases, a trait of the fifth movement (Distrait) before the suspensions of the finale concluded the concert in a halo of beauty.

Whether Telemann is a ‘forgotten genius’ after the recent celebrations of his anniversary is slightly contentious. That he is a genius is not. A life-enhancing evening.

Colin Clarke

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