January/February 2009, "Fanfare" magazine, USA
What does it say about Telemann that nearly a half century after his revival moved into full swing, the Pratum Integrum Orchestra can release a disc that proclaims four (see asterisks) of its six components to be world premiere recordings? Past accounts of Telemann 's legendary productivity were undoubtedly exaggerated, but nonetheless he was probably the most prolific composer of all time. To make the point: New Grove's catalog of Telemann's works starts with a 20-page, tightly packed, small-type list of vocal works that does not include the operas and devotes a single line to his 44 Passion settings. Telemann's own estimate of 600 orchestral suites has been reduced to 135, more or less, but that does not count the concertos and other instrumental works that he undoubtedly meant to include in his reckoning. The recording industry has barely scratched the surface of his vocal output, but one could be excused for thinking that by now the instrumental side has been thoroughly investigated. Apparently one could be wrong.
Stravinsky once infamously claimed that Vivaldi had written the same concerto 600 times demonstrably untrue. But he might have aimed the same barb at Telemann, if, in fact, he knew of Telemann at all. Obviously Telemann worked from templates, and there is a superficial sameness to his works in various genres. But if the devil is in the details, Telemann was a devilishly clever composer. The four premiere recordings succinctly illustrate the central dilemma of Telemann's legacy, which had threatened to consign him to the dustbin of history. All are fine, supremely well crafted works, rewarding in their own rights, but none really jumps out and says that your life was not complete before you heard it. Compared with Bach, whom you might call the Edmund Hillary of composers, Telemann was the essential high-plains drifter.
Should you try this disc? By all means, yes. Under the artistic direction of Pavel Serbin and led be the first violin of Sergey Filchenko, the conductorless Pratum Integrum Orchestra makes a rather late, but successful, Russian entrance into the now well-entrenched world of period-instruments ensembles. The playing is stylishly crisp, and the program is, when all is said and done, delightfully entertaining exactly as the composer intended. It is presented in state-of-the-art surround sound. George Chien