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American Record Guide: (01/2018) 
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Resonus Classics

Code-barres / Barcode : 5060262791004


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Reviewer: John W. Barker

Always ready to demonstrate the possibilities of an instrument—any instrument—Telemann sought to explore four specific ones in 12-work published sets of Fantasias for each as unaccompanied vehicles. The sets for harpsichord, for flute, and for violin are relatively well known and often recorded. The collection for viola da gamba was seemingly lost until its welcome discovery in 2015. The collection’s rediscoverer was Thomas Fritzsch, who quickly recorded the set in full for the Coviello label (91601). That was very cordially reviewed in these pages by David W. Moore (S/O 2016). This collection is quite a wonderful achievement. It reminds us again of Telemann’s ability to get inside any instrument and display its character, by itself or in combinations. The gamba character is also displayed in ways we might contrast with Bach’s six cello suites. Cello and gamba are not exactly the same instruments, of course, but they have their parallels in range. Moreover, we find considerable differences in the music of each composer. Bach’s works are suites in the French format, dominated by dance movements and reflecting a considerable assimilation of French ornamental styles. Telemann’s Fantasias, on the other hand, are almost completely in three movements, each using Italian tempo designations, and suggesting a somewhat more Italianate idiom of straightforward lyrical writing. Indeed, the melodic invention is really quite imaginative, and there is less reliance on double-stopping than with Bach. I confess to my shame that I do not have the Fritzsch recording at hand for direct comparison. I know that some of his tempos are a bit slower than Smith’s: he takes a full 85 minutes. But one need have no qualms about the performances here. Smith is an accomplished player, steeped in the techniques of his instrument, and dedicated to make these sparely scored pieces enjoyable. They are certainly best experienced, as Telemann expected, one fantasia as a time, but even in one gulp they are pleasing listening.

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