Telemann Burlesque de Quixotte
Les Esprits Animaux are a new chamber group formed in 2009 among postgraduate students at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and there is freshness aplenty in this, their first CD release. The all-Telemann programme offers three descriptive suites interspersed with works which, though without subtitle, brim nonetheless with personality.
The highlight is the Burlesque de Quichotte, one of the most brilliantly imaginative of all Telemann’s suites, in which Les Esprits fall upon every illustrative touch and joke with all the evident enjoyment of talented youth. I have not heard the piece played one-to-a-part before but cannot say that it loses anything in vividness or vigour. Indeed, led by the firmly eloquent violin of Javier Lupiáñez, the single strings seem rather to find extra vibrancy of line, dynamic contrast and bracing incisiveness. The spirit of Cervantes is present too: Quixote’s assault in the windmills is blindly furious, his sighs for Dulcinea mopy and hopeless, his night-time dreams endearingly barmy. The untitled pieces include the popular Concerto for recorder and flute, just as characterfully entertaining especially in a rousingly stomping account of the ‘gypsy’ finale. There is more fun in the Gulliver Suite for two violins without bass but at no cost in musical sense – the Brobdingnagians’ gigue is suitably ponderous but it is still securely a gigue.
There are some tuning lapses here and there – and the Concerto for two flutes and the Introduzzione depicting a clutch of formidable Classical heroines cannot quite sustain the energy levels of the other pieces – but these are early days yet. For their wit, verve and flair, and for those first two pieces especially, Les Esprits Animaux look like a group to watch.