The fact that Musica Antiqua Koln (MAK) and Reinhard Goebel are now disbanded is a shame. Going through their various recordings, I am hard pressed to find another baroque orchestra that I enjoy more consistently. Many will argue the same case for the Freiburger Barockorchester under Gottfried von der Goltz/Petra Mullejans, but I find Goebel's band to be my first choice, for several reasons.
-They are impeccably clean players. Intonation is never less than perfect, as is their rhythm.
-In a similar vein, their technical prowess (particularly Mr. Goebel's; check out the first movement of his Brandenburg 3) allows them to take some refreshingly bright tempi. It is this kind of livliness and vitality that makes excellent period performance so attractive, at least to me.
-MAK/Goebel's improvisation and ornamentation is truly impressive. To compare, Pieter-Jan Belder's set of Tafelmusik is also clean and exciting, but their is little, if any, improvisatory risk-taking. Conversely, Goebel's reading is full of the spontanaeity that can only be the result of extensive experience and technical comfort that frees the players to interact in a truly never-to-be-heard-again manner.
Telemann's Tafelmusik is not a collection of music that plays itself, per se. In fact, many would argue that baroque music is quite repetitive and lack-luster compared to the more varied, one-of-a-kind repertoire of Brahms, Dvorak, Mahler, and comparable Romantics. As a baroque music lover and period-instrument fanatic, I find it painful to admit; however I do agree that the music can get repetitive. My conclusion is that this type of music, having less specifics indicated by the composer in each work, requires a heightened creativity and musical inventiveness on the part of the performer. And that is where Goebel's reading succeeds to the highest degree. Somehow, listening to all seven movements of the opening Ouvertüre-Suite In E Minor, I just don't get bored. Goebel and his friends seem to be having a blast the whole time. The dynamics, whether indicated by the composer or intuited by the players, are always extreme and convincing. The tempi are also varied in the extreme, which is a plus in my book. You will never hear members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, or even the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, who have an impressive discography of baroque repertoire, employ such drastic contrasts in their readings.
In short, Telemann's music, great as it is, benefits from the inventiveness of MAK/Goebel, whose extremes of tempi and dynamics, extraordinary technical command, and unsurpassed improvisatory skill make this set THE DEFINITIVE complete set of Telemann's Tafelmusik, surpassing the efforts of Pieter-Jan Belder/Musica Amphion (which is also highly enjoyable, though not my favorite) and even the great set by Gottfried von der Goltz/Petra Mullejans and the great Freiburger Barockorchester, which made the 2011 Grammophon shortlist in the baroque instrumental category. To make this set even more attractive, it is now available in reissue through Deutsche Grammophone/Archiv Produktion's Collector's Edition, which offers some truly excellent recordings of need-to-own classical music at truly affordable prices, in clever, recognizable packaging. To me it's a no brainer; great music, top-notch playing, great price. Highly, highly recommended!