Saturday, May 28, 2011

Telemann - Overture 'La Bourse', Suites - Dombrecht, Il Fondamento







Il Fondamento, the Baroque orchestra founded by oboist Paul Dombrecht more than two decades ago, has been turning out lively recordings of 18th-century music ever since. The present disc (a reissue of a recording from 1996), titled La Bourse after one of the suites, is comparatively modest: just two oboes, bassoon, and strings.
A bourse is a stock exchange. Telemann spent nearly a decade of his composing career living in an upper corner of a massive Frankfurt mansion whose ground floor was then occupied by the Frankfurt Bourse. The title La Bourse isn’t actually Telemann’s, having been attached to the piece (TWV 55:B11) by a 20th-century editor, but as musicological Paul Dombrecht conjectures go it’s not that much of a stretch. The last movement is titled “L’Espérance de Mississippi” — presumably the “Mississippi bubble” of 1720, when thousands of investors staked their hopes (unwisely) on French Louisiana. When you consider that the other movements are titled “Interrupted rest,” “War in peacetime,” “The victors vanquished,” and “Solitude in company,” it’s hard to resist the idea that this is Telemann’s portrayal of a stockbroker’s life. All the same, there’s little that you could call tone-painting in this suite. Telemann trying deliberately to imitate something, be it a frog or an old woman, almost never misses. These titles (apart from Le Repos interrompu, which is exactly what it sounds like) seem added after the fact. The other two suites here don’t pretend to illustrate anything but themselves. One (TWV 55:g3) is a sort of expansion of an earlier chamber piece. There are six movements in a row, titled “Aria,” so sharply distinct that apart from the common key you wouldn’t necessarily assume they all belonged to the same piece. The other (TWV 55:C4) is a big (10-movement) suite in as grand a style as can be achieved with so small an ensemble. It’s typical Telemann in the sense that it delivers what was promised, and then throws in a little bonus. You’ve got your dance movements (the canonical allemande, courante, sarabande, plus some extras); but you’ve also got a rambling “Air italien,” an “Entrée,” and a gavotte titled “Les Étudiants gaillards” (roughly, “the lively students”). This last is a hoot. The main gavotte is decorous enough, but the trio section involves oboes in octaves over a bassoon drone, to which Dombrecht has added some most apt percussion. The performances — nimble, suave, witty, and somber by turns — range as widely as the music does, and run in felicitous tandem with it.


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