"Hidden Treasures" is the title of this superb Telemann programme. It is true that the five works performed here have been among his lesser-known pieces until now, not being included in his published collections such as the Musique de Table, although three of them have appeared elsewhere on disc. But treasures they certainly are, and from the very start of the first Ouverture (TWV 55: D4) it is clear that we are in for a real treat. The playing of the outstanding Montreal-based Arion ensemble, together with the sounds of their period instruments, combine to produce a vigorous and incisive performance of this brilliant piece. The pair of oboes sound especially colourful, the bassoon adds a rich sonority to the bass line, and the passages where these three instruments are highlighted together are simply marvellous. So all the better that, observing well-documented baroque practice, the overture's fast and slow sections are repeated, to be followed by the customary series of sharply characterised dance movements including an energetic and inventive chaconne.
The next Concerto "alla Francese" brings us more delights from the oboe/bassoon trio, and this is followed by a graceful flute concerto with a concluding allegro based on one of Telemann's typically catchy main subjects. Finally there are two more overture-suites; the first of these, "L'Omphale", is characterised by fine string sonorities, especially in the opening dotted section and the later "Les Magiciens" dance movement. The last work, the Ouverture in E flat major for two horns and strings (TWV 55: Es 1), brings this sonic feast to a splendid climax with still more - and yet again different - instrumental delights. Here the baroque horns make a magnificently rich sound and are played with true virtuosity and panache - all credit to these wonderful players, and to all the musicians of the ensemble under the spirited and stylish direction of Jaap ter Linden.
As mentioned above, the flute concerto and a couple of the overture-suites are available elsewhere on disc. The two overtures (those identified by their TWV numbers above) can be found in volumes 1 and 2 of Brilliant's series of Telemann's Overtures - as usual with that label, a notable bargain - in excellent performances on modern instruments by the Collegium Instrumentale Brugense directed by Patrick Peire. But the present Arion disc is exceptionally fine in that it brings us truly stunning and joyful performances on period instruments of some of the composer's finest works. What's more, it is beautifully recorded in a fine Quebec church acoustic, and comes with helpful and detailed booklet notes. In short, this is one of the very best Telemann discs I have heard and I can't imagine any fan of the prolific Hamburg master being less than delighted.