Robert Smith performs recently discovered Fantasias by Telemann

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LABELS: Resonus
WORKS: Fantasias for Viola da Gamba
PERFORMER: Robert Smith (viola da gamba)


Telemann’s recently discovered Fantasias for viola da gamba provide the missing link in his series of fantasias for solo instruments. Those for traverso flute, violin and harpsichord have long been cherished by performers but, though mentioned by the composer himself, the viola da gamba solos only came to light in 2015 in a manuscript by an unknown hand in a private library near Hanover. 

Listening to these 12 pieces, almost all of which are in three movements, I am immediately struck by their uniformly high quality as well as by Telemann’s hallmark eclecticism in matters of style, form and measure. Several of the Fantasias contain fugal movements, one of which, in the First Fantasia, is deftly interwoven with arresting chromaticism. Songlike melodies, syncopation, wide-ranging tessiture, rhetorical declamation, occasional multiple stopping and fleeting references to the central European folk tradition so beloved of the composer all find a place in music which unlocks the instrument’s subtle sonorities with characteristic sensibility.

Robert Smith is not first in the field with his recording, and there will certainly be others to follow, but the expressive warmth which he brings to these attractive pieces, together with a feeling for rhetoric and an accomplished technique deserve to win many friends. The sound is excellent and Smith has provided an elegantly written introduction. 


Nicholas Anderson