Telemann: 12 Fantasies for Violin without Bass

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: 12 Fantasies for Violin without Bass
PERFORMER: Peter Sheppard (violin)
Only recently has the full range of Telemann’s music begun to emerge from the shadow of his contemporary, Bach. Inevitably, these pieces for solo violin invite comparison with Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, which in many ways epitomise the high Baroque ideal of harmonic balance between treble and bass (in particular, the Chaconne from the D minor Partita). The full title of Telemann’s pieces hints at his desire to move away from that balance, and though the first six fantasies are, broadly speaking, contrapuntal, the latter six are more galant in style, so that the violin is given a simple melodic line, with little of the dense double-stopping that characterises Bach’s music.


These two recordings illustrate different conceptions of this music. Maya Homburger plays a Baroque violin and she emphasises the formal clarity of each movement, deploying strong and clear phrasing with a voice-like purity of tone. By contrast, Peter Sheppard is idiosyncratic and boisterous, detecting in the music something more emotionally various and parodic. His account certainly generates sparks, but seems to ask too much from these pieces, and is finally less satisfying than Homburger’s more constrained approach. William Humphreys-Jones