Telemann: Fantasias for Solo Violin

Elfa Rún Kristinsdóttir
Available directly

In stark contrast to a recording of these pieces I reviewed last month, this magnificent CD is worth every penny! Anyone who choses to perform Telemann’s unaccompanied violin music faces the challenge of justifying why they have done so rather than tackling Bach’s output in the same medium, in this case because there are none of the huge technical demands of the latter and – on the page – Telemann’s writing lacks sophistication. However, while both composers rely on the instrument’s ability to suggest part-writing and harmony, in fact it is Telemann’s music that requires the individual violinist’s input to make it make sense. Where lesser players struggle to discover a coherent way through every movement, Elfa Rún Kristinsdóttir must have spent hours deciding exactly how she was going to play every single note; if she didn’t, then I take my hat off to her, as these are truly magical performances. We often talk about shaping notes with the bow, or picking out notes here and there to make melodic lines more interesting, but I don’t think I have ever heard a violinist with such a wide range of bow strokes; even in sequences of leaps across two strings, she is able to colour the notes without ever losing momentum, and where traditional wisdom might suggest building to a crescendo, she is not afraid to let the music taper off into the most delicate of pianissimos. But there are two virtuosi at work here, for the sound engineer has worked miracles in perfectly capturing each and ever nuance without also picking up any background noise. Bravo to both of them! There are no booklet notes; some people will find this a drawback, but personally I don’t think I want to read another essay special pleading for Telemann’s solos – just listen to the glorious playing and allow yourself to be persuaded. The CD has already been awarded “Album of the Year” at the Icelandic Music Prize ceremony, but I seriously believe this will garner accolades across the HIP world and beyond. And for those of you who don’t take Telemann seriously (shame on you!), she makes rather a good job of playing Bach, too. If you like that sort of thing… 🙂

Brian Clark