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GRAMOPHONE (02/2017)
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Reviewer: Hannah Nepil

The Harmonious Society of TickleFiddle Gentlemen is no joking matter. Named after the musicians that gave London’s first public concerts in the late 17th century, this 10-year-old ensemble specialises in English Baroque repertoire that has fallen by the wayside, as well as the odd curiosity from the Continent. This, their third disc, follows on from two explorations of music by the German émigré composer Johann Christoph Pepusch (Ramée, 11/16), and it is similarly sharp in focus.

If you’ve never heard of Josef Guretzky, the Moravian composer who toiled under the patronage of two bishops and a Bavarian Count, this release might make you feel like a connoisseur. We get Guretzky’s only surviving violin concerto, along with four of his nine cello concertos, composed for Count Rudolf Franz Erwein of Schönborn in Wiesentheid, who adored the cello and paid a servant to carry his own around for him when travelling. The result reveals a musical personality that occasionally seems shy in coming forward.

That’s because Guretzky, like many of his Central European contemporaries, bowed down to Italian musical practice; and the works displayed here follow the norms established by Vivaldi, Giovanni and Antonio Maria Bononcini and Antonio Caldara, with whom Guretzky may have studied. That said, there are subtle detours from the road map – in Guretzky’s quirky rhythmic patterns, as well as his experiments with Baroque form. And what is most striking is the freshness and dynamism with which he generates his polyphony.

This music certainly brings out good things in the Tickle-Fiddlers, who fully justify their name. There is real joy in the music-making. The ensemble-playing, under the artistic direction of Robert Rawson, is crisp and buoyant. And even the soloists – cellist Kinga Gáborjáni, violinist Rodolfo Richter and harpsichordist David Wright, who contributes a delicate fugue by Bohuslav Mat∆j Černohorsk≥ – wear their virtuosity lightly.


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