Totally Telemann (CD review)

Music for Orchestra. Barokkanerne, Kati Debretzeni, Ingeborg Christophersen, Alfredo Bernardini, Torun Kirby Torbo. LAWQ Classics LWC1074.

Being unfamiliar with the group Barokkanerne, I looked them up at our friends from Wikipedia, who inform us that "Barokkanerne is a Norwegian baroque ensemble based in Oslo, Norway. The ensemble was founded in 1989, playing on period instruments and gives concerts both as a chamber music group and orchestra. The ensemble has toured in Israel and Lithuania, participated in the Oslo Chamber Music Festival, the Oslo International Church Music Festival and has done productions for NRK TV and radio. Barokkanerne has its own concert series, called Cafebarokk, at Cafe Teatret in Oslo.

"The ensemble consists of professional musicians, permanent employees in the Oslo Philharmonic and the Radio Orchestra, as well as freelance musicians." Thank you, Wiki folk. Barokkanerne have made a small number of recordings over the past quarter century, so it seems odd that I've never run into them before. Nevertheless, better late than never, and I'm glad I found them.

Here, Barokkanerne are playing Telemann. That would be German Baroque composer and instrumentalist Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), one of the most-prolific composers of all time and considered by his contemporaries the leading German composer of his day. On the present album, Barokkanerne accompany soloists Kati Debretzeni, violin, Ingeborg Christophersen, recorder, Alfredo Bernardini, oboe, and Torun Kirby Torbo, flute on four brief concertos by Telemann, along with the orchestral suite La Bourse.

The concertos, which dominate the program, are the Concerto in E minor for Flute, Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV52:33; the Concerto in C Minor for Oboe, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 51:c1; the Concerto in B-flat Major for Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 51:B1, and the Concerto in E Minor for Flute, Recorder, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 52:e1. In addition, there is La Bourse, Suite in B-flat Major, TWV 55:B11.

As far as period-instrument bands go, Barokkanerne are quite good. They never sound rough or raggedy as can sometimes be the case with such ensembles. Indeed, if anything, they sound too polished, too precise. They apparently play without a conductor, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on the sophistication of their performances. I have to admit, however, that I've gotten rather used to the lighter, more buoyant style of a period-instrument group like Philharmonia Baroque than the more sedate, more straightlaced approach usually taken by Barokkanerne. Still, there is much one can praise about Barokkanerne's interpretations of Baroque music. After all, people nowadays call the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries "The Age of Reason," so there is good cause for Barokkanerne to perform Telemann in a somewhat analytical fashion.

In any case, Barokkanerne and the various soloists do a splendid job playing as one, supporting each other, and creating a rich tapestry of musical colors. Among my favorite items were the opening piece for flute and violin solos and the later orchestral suite, both of them vibrant and fun, even if they don't exactly bubble over with mirth. Barokkanerne, as I say, go after elegance and refinement above all; and here they succeed. The Adagio of the B-flat Concerto for Violin and Strings is also quite lovely and alone should win the album a flock of fans, as should the final movement of the E minor Concerto for Flute and Recorder for its virtuoso playing.

Producer Jorn Pedersen and engineer Thomas Wolden recorded the album at Jar Church, Baerum, Norway in March 2014. They made it for playback via hybrid SACD, two-channel stereo (CD and SACD) and, I assume, multichannel (SACD). I say that "I assume" there's a multichannel SACD layer because nowhere on the packaging or within the booklet insert could I find any word about the disc's playback capabilities, and since I only have my SACD player hooked up in two-channel, I was unable to determine for myself the disc's multichannel functions.

Anyway, I listened in two-channel SACD and thought the sound was fine. Barokkanerne is a pretty small group, so you would expect the sound to appear fairly transparent, which is the case. Although they seem a little too up-close for my taste, the sound is both warm and natural, with a pleasantly mild room resonance to add further to the lifelike effect. Instruments show up clearly separated and cleanly delineated, with a wide stereo spread. It's a good listen.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa