music for viola da gamba
Ibrahim Aziz
First Hand Records FHR83
Abel, J. S. Bach, Martínez Gil, Rowe & Schenck

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This CD is a vehicle for the gamba virtuosity of Ibrahim Aziz. The programme consists of two Baroque pieces and two modern compositions for gamba, and an arrangement of the Bach second cello Suite. Notwithstanding Aziz’s formidable technique and sonorous tone, I found this the least successful piece on the recording, being so familiar with the work as a cello piece and feeling that the gamba with its frets acted as a restraint on the player. Carlos Martínez Gil’s Suite Estiu is very much in the neo-Baroque style, a nostalgic homage to the gamba compositions of the 18th century. He manages to find unusual textures and resonances in the work’s five varied movements, as does gambist and composer, Rebecca Rowe, in her impressive 2018 composition Journeying, specifically written for Ibrahim Aziz. As a player of the instrument, she seems more confident and enterprising than Martínez Gil in her exploration of its potential. The Three Pieces by Carl Friedrich Abel are surprisingly consequential, although this is hardly surprising from the leading gamba virtuoso in London in the 18th century. Curious to think of his gifted pupil, the painter Thomas Gainsborough, working away diligently on this sort of repertoire. The D-minor Suite V by another 18th-century gambist/composer Johann Schenck is the most substantial work in the programme, technically dazzling and musically powerful. It is not surprising to learn that his music was widely published and performed throughout Europe, although the present suite survives in manuscript only. This is a delightfully varied CD, demonstrating the full and varied potential of the gamba in the hands of a capable and wonderfully gifted young player. 

D. James Ross

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