Once modern performers and listeners progress beyond the Bach and Handel zone of the baroque period, they must decide how much to take the scores at their word. Composing was an everyday activity in the 18th century, much of the music written to be heard only once.
So, is Tempesta di Mare's scholarly reevaluation of Georg Telemann's 1765 secular cantata Ino, premiered this weekend in its season-closing concerts, a significant event in the history of a significant piece? Yes, but not necessarily because listeners were closer to the notes Telemann put on paper.
The Saturday performance at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill was recorded live - the latest in Tempesta di Mare's relationship with the Chandos label - and was worth preserving. The group, expanded to 25 or so musicians, was more than well-rehearsed, it had internalized the music - important with a composer whose recordings too often sound like sight reading, and especially in a cantata such as Ino, which is more like an extended dramatic scene in which the mythical title character wards off torment from Jupiter and is saved from death by Poseidon.
Though the often-excellent soprano Laura Heimes was at times badly served by the church acoustic, the performance revealed the piece's narrative with admirable specificity and maintained a crackling energy even in moments that signified release in the dramatic tension - thus the final joyful aria, "Tönt in meinem Lobgesang," which brought the audience to its feet. (How often does Telemann do that?)
I can't say the new edition changed my overall view of the musical content, though passages that always seemed oddly digressive were more enjoyable, if only because they were so winningly played. Clearly, the new edition excited the performers - and they transmitted that to the audience. Thus, Ino, an important stylistic bridge between Bach and Mozart, will have a recording it deserves.
Other works on the program were discoveries made by Tempesta directors Richard Stone and Gwen Roberts from the Berlin Sing-Akademie archive that disappeared after World War II and was returned from Kiev after the Soviet Union fell. Even as someone who has rarely warmed to Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758), I was taken with his Concerto for Orchestra in D, whose sumptuous scoring challenged every section of Tempesta di Mare to its limits, with concertmaster Emlyn Ngai acting as a needed musical beacon. Even more engaging was Overture Grosso in G by Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708-63) for an unevenly divided double orchestra, each side taking turns leading the other, but changing the other's ideas to suit their respective sizes.