Telemann is fun. While his music tends to bump along what seems to be an inevitable course, there are occassions when all of a sudden it veers off into the most unlikely detours.
That happened last night during the D Major Overture that ended the Smithsonian Chamber Players' happy concert of his music in the Hall of Musical Instruments. In the middle of a perfectly well-behaved dance movement the oboe broke out into what sounded like a tune from some other piece. It was in a different key, a slower tempo. It only lasted a moment before order reasserted itself. But then, a few dozen bars later, it got loose again. This time it was subdued for good and D Major triumphed.
Telemann may have cranked out more than 6,000 pieces, but he clearly never got into a rut. Indeed, the whole program testified to this fact. There was a charming Suite for Viola da Gamba and Strings, a rather hectic concerto for four violins, a concerto for bassoon and recorder and strings with some very old sonorities, and the overture whose scoring for strings and four oboes made all sorts of interesting sounds almost inevitable.
The Smithsonian is uniquely equipped to produce this sort of program. The instruments from their collection were all of the period. The musicians, long associated with the Smithsonian's imaginative music staff, are masters of Baroque performance practices. They chose to keep their own personalities out of their performances, allowing the music to speak entirely for itself, and they do all this very well.