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  40:5 (05-06 /2017)
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Reviewer: Michael De Sapio

This off-beat Telemann disc, highlighting some rarely heard instruments, is a delight. I was reasonably familiar with the chalumeau, an early form of the clarinet. The salterio, however, left me nonplussed. The booklet notes enlightened me: It is what we know in English as a hammered dulcimer, its etymological relationship to the word “psaltery” being fairly obvious. Known variously as the salterio, cimbalom, and Hackbrett, it has a lovely silvery sound and is remarkably agile. Although Telemann did not write any compositions expressly for this instrument, he was acquainted with its inventor, Pantaleon Hebenstreit, about whom (and “his admirable instrument, the cimbalom”) he writes in his autobiography. Building on this knowledge, the enterprising musicians of Salzburger Hofmusik have taken a cue from Leopold Mozart, who in one of his works recommends playing the violin part on a salterio. Thus here we have the salterio being used as a substitute for the violin in several pieces. The Fantasia No. 5 in A Major for unaccompanied violin responds especially well to this treatment, the salterio doing a good job of delineating the style brisé (broken style) counterpoint. In other pieces, the instrument is used as continuo reinforcement, in which capacity it also proves very useful. Heidelore Schauer’s playing is excellent throughout.


As for the chalumeau, its sound will not prove a surprise to anyone: It is a punchier, brighter-sounding clarinet. Historians believe that it was related to the recorder in its early development as well as often acting as a substitute for the trumpet. It is in this latter spirit that Salzburger Hofmusik gives us a short fanfare-like piece from the collection Der Getreue Music-Meister, originally for trumpet. There is also a charming carillon piece (with a tune that faintly recalls Frère Jacques) for two chalumeaux from the same collection. All the varieties of chalumeau—soprano, alto, tenor, and bass—are featured on the program.


But the program is more than just a display for out-of-the-way instruments; it contains some real gems from Telemann’s output. Take the Sonata in F Major for two chalumeaux, unison violins, and continuo, an almost concerto-like work whose colorful interplay is only highlighted when the violin part is performed on the chalumeau as here. Or take the terrific Bassoon Sonata, whose key of F Minor fits the dark and saturnine character of the instrument perfectly; Salzburger Hofmusik enhances the lugubrious nocturnal coloring of the piece by turning the tables and assigning the continuo bass line to a bass chalumeau! Alexander Golde’s playing of the busy bassoon part is adept and characterful. In the Overture in F Major for alto and tenor chalumeau and continuo, Telemann transposes the overture-suite genre familiar from its orchestral garb to a trio sonata format, and the result is refreshing.

My only criticism of the performances is some front-side-of-the-beat playing that occurs in a couple of the fast movements, but this is no great matter. The disc gives real pleasure, and Salzburger Hofmusik—in addition to their high artistry—appears to be having fun with this enjoyable music. As proof of this, the disc closes with about half a minute of the ensemble improvising on their Baroque instruments in jazz style. Great fun indeed!

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