September-October 2009, "American Record Guide" magazine
This Russian ensemble has already recorded for this Russian label two discs of orchestral and chamber music by this composer, rather fatuously titled as "Telemann in Major" (42004: N/D 2008) and "Telemann in Minor" (32005: J/F 2009). They were both fine, but in making them all hands seem to have caught a dangerous virus. It's symptoms are announced by the identification of this new release as "Vol. 1" in a plan "to record all the Telemann orchestral suites that have been preserved". They don't tell you that there are a good 118 of those. That "this project should take several years" is an epic understatement, especially if it is to be one disc at a time.
Patrick Peire and his Collegium Instrumentale of Bruges has launched a parallel endeavor for Brilliant. Their series has already taken great leaps forward: two sets of three CDs plus one of two CDs, racking up ~ total so far of 33 suites. That leaves them only 82 to go. Our conducturless Russians have begun here with only three suites (to which I suppose you could add the two that appeared in the two earlier programs), in a disc of rather stingy running time. Are we dealing with the tortoise vs. the hare? Well, whoever wins the race will have created one of the great monuments in the recording of 18th Century music.
Peire and his ensemble foreswear period instruments. They are a little lukewarm: their performances seem routine. But the Russians make excellent use of the colors of period instruments and are able to distinguish the shades oh vitality, subtlety, and humor running through their three specimens (in D minor, E minor, and B minor). All are marked by the composer's very clever "takes" on French musical stereotypes (a wonderful explosion of the French chaconne in the B-minor Suite). The Russian sound continues to be of top quality, and the booklet notes are unusually extensive in both background and analysis.