Telemann: Solo Fantasias

Richard Boothby viola da gamba
79:09
Signum Classics SIGCD544

It was back in the year 2000, when the paper trail started that was to lead to the unearthing of these long-deemed “lost” fantasias for gamba of 1735, the very same year of publication for the splendid violin fantasias. Amongst the donated material from Schloss Ledeburg near Osnabrück, handed over to the State Library, these intimate and tastefully wrought pieces were hiding. They were premiered by Thomas Fritzsch on two wonderfully resonant gambas in 2016 on the Coviello Label. Now we have a pleasant half a dozen recordings which explore these elegant and befittingly conceived works. Richard Boothby (of Purcell Quartet and Fretwork fame) comes to the fore, with a well-measured and sensitive reading on an “un-named” gamba. These Fantasias were almost certainly released at the rate of two pieces a fortnight from August to October 1735. They are dedicated to the Hamburg merchant and music lover, Pierre Chaunell, who already features in the lists of subscribers to Musique de Table 1733, and Nouveaux Quatuors of 1738; whether he was a competent “dilettante” gambist is not known, but it must have been a thrill to have seen this published dedication, possibly awarded for services rendered as a promoter or distributor. The set opens in the elegiac key of C minor with an aria-like phrase; indeed, many rhetorical effects and devices surface as the music proceeds to give the impression of a gambist exploring free-flowing, musical ideas that arise during the course of intimate solo sessions; the overall intention! Perhaps not as immediately engaging as the flute or violin sets of fanatasias, the material seems perfectly suited to proficient middle-class amateurs and gifted gambists to both be able to tackle and delight in these well-tailored pieces for the instrument, that find a player’s path to their personal interpretation and own level of virtuosity. Another perfect example of Telemann’s shrewd business and musical acumen. With regards to new “explorers”, one has to say the more the merrier, as these various qualities and elements cited are drawn out by more players and instruments displaying their wears and wiles. It would have been interesting to note the details of Mr Boothby’s gamba of choice… However, this is a very smooth and elegant reading which might have enjoyed just a touch more dancing élan in well-chosen places, but he does embrace the fantasias with individual flair and charm.

David Bellinger

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