Telemann: 12 Fantaisies for Solo Violin

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LABELS: Channel
WORKS: 12 Fantaisies for Solo Violin
PERFORMER: Rachel Podger (violin)
Following his appointment as Hamburg’s music director in 1721, Telemann began to assemble compositions in a wide variety of forms which were engraved, printed and issued under his own supervision. One such enterprise was a set of 12 Fantaisies for unaccompanied violin, printed in 1735. Like the 12 similar works for unaccompanied flute which Telemann had published in the previous year, the music presents the composer in a somewhat uncharacteristically serious light. While never approaching either the complexity or the dimensions of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin, the Fantaisies are nevertheless pieces that require abundant technique to reveal their many colours and varied humours. Multiple stopping is frequently called for and the implied harmonies make the term Fantaisie an apt one. Rachel Podger enters an arena already well represented by fine recordings of these pieces – Maya Homburger (Maya Recordings), Andrew Manze (Harmonia Mundi) and Angèle Dubeau (Analekta) at once spring to mind. Podger’s tone is warmer than that of Dubeau and her tempi generally more leisurely than those of Manze. Her rhetoric perhaps comes closer to that of Homburger than to the others, and it is a manner of sensitive declamation that I find convincing and affecting. Both players eschew gimmicky affectation, reaching the heart of the music with expressive directness. These are pieces of substance in which playful galanteries and stricter Baroque disciplines are skilfully accommodated. Telemann clearly intended that it should be so, counterpoint dominating the first six Fantaisies, the dance assuming greater prominence in the second six. For me, a difficult choice between Podger and Homburger, but the latter just makes it through. Nicholas Anderson