Le Voyage d’Allemagne

Emmanuelle Guigues viola da gamba
L’Encelade ECL1404
Schenck, Telemann and J. S. Bach

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]usic for unaccompanied bass viol by Schenck, Telemann, and J. S. Bach is played on a 6-string bass viol, dating from the end of the 17th century, attributed to Edward Lewis, of London. It apparently travelled to America early in its life, and was recently restored in New York by William Monical. It’s worth mentioning all this because the instrument itself has a gorgeous sound, very mellow, and even across its registers. It is played at a= 405, and recorded in an ancient church in the Dordogne. The recording sounds close-miked, albeit in a generous acoustic, but her technique is so clean and her articulation so secure that no extraneous sounds of shifting or too-fast bow-stroke is heard at all.

Further, the repertoire she chooses is particularly demanding – the unaccompanied bass viol is an unforgiving instrument in that any false stroke, any fudged fingering is immediately apparent. As for the music, that of Schenck requires a virtuoso technique, of that there is no doubt, but it needs a care-free approach as well. The two delightful sonatas for unaccompanied viol, Opus IX, L’Echo du Danube, published in his native Amsterdam around 1700, are Italianate in their construction, perhaps owing something to Corelli, but the chordal technique is very similar to that of Christopher Simpson and Marin Marais. Their melodic charm allied to the possibilities offered by the bass viol make them compelling listening, particularly when played as beautifully as she does.

Telemann’s sonata in D major (TWV40:1) is well known and widely recorded, but nowhere better than here. The sonorous acoustic is generous, but the close-miking means that her playing has to be completely clean – there is no concealment in the texture, and it is a superb performance of a very charming and ingenious work.
The Bach 5th suite, transposed to D minor, and played without its prelude, is the final work. She plays it with great insight, and although her approach is literal, she gives a particular flavour to each movement, none more so than the dreamy quality of the final gigue.

This is the third recording of hers that I have heard, and she is undoubtedly an outstanding artist, with a commanding technique, and no need to resort to gimmicky mannerism. Her own excellent notes in the booklet, somewhat awkwardly translated into English, give an enlightening historical context for this repertoire. Highly recommended.

Robert Oliver

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