The Viola da Gamba in the Spotlight
Thomas Fritzsch gamba, Michael Schönheit pianoforte, Merseburger Hofmusik
Coviello Classics COV91710
Concertos and sonatas by Abel, J. C. Bach, Johann Carl Graf zu Hardeck, Milling & Raetzel
This is one of those booklets (Ger/Eng) that has to be read so that the full story of these works’ survival and restoration – a matter of luck, determination and musicological skill sensitively deployed – can be enjoyed and appreciated. I can be driven to distraction by mid-18th-century repeated note bass lines but here I rather enjoyed the gentle clucking of the 1805 Broadwood piano used on the continuo line, to say nothing of the melodic charms of the gamba above. It adds a particular frisson to know that the solo instrument belonged to the aristocrat in whose library some of these pieces are preserved. It also helps that it is extremely well played. The recording does a good job too, keeping the soloist in the foreground while still allowing us to hear the supporting (single) strings when they have something to say. I approached this with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. I finished it smiling broadly.
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