Telemann: Fantasias for Viola da Gamba

Telemann: Fantasias for Viola da Gamba
Robert Smith
Resonus RES10195. 79’15

Telemann is the gift that keeps on giving. His latest offering was the discovery in 2015 of the previously lost set of Gamba Fantasies. In accordance with his very successful business approach, they were published two at a time over six fortnights in 1735. Aimed at the upper performing end of the amateur market, they also present many challenges for the professional musician. As Robert Smith writes in his own programme notes, a performer can approach these pieces with no preconceived ideas of how they might be performed. Unlike, for example, the Bach Cello Suites with many decades of recording and teaching, these Telemann Fantasias have a clean performing slate.

With one exception, the 12 Fantasias follow a sequence of rising key signatures until the 9th, after which the keys jump about a bit. All but one are in three movements, with the first sometimes containing a number of sections. There is no consistent pattern of movements, giving the set as a whole a wide variety of moods and textures. Initial movements range from serious to meditative while the final movement is generally lighter in texture and style, often appearing dance-like, although with any such designation.

Robert Smith is one of the many past alumni of EUBO (the European Union Baroque Orchestra), going on to win the Bach-Abel Competition in 2012. He plays with an outstanding sense of delicacy and invention, bringing each of Telemann’s little operas to life. The audible breaths that punctuate his playing take a while to get used to, and perhaps could have been avoided by a different microphone placement. The photos show close microphones at head, rather than Gamba, height. Supplementary microphones pick up the attractive acoustic of the North Yorkshire church well.

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