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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
24 Fantasias
12 Fantasias for violin (TWV 40,14-25) [69:02]
12 Fantasias for transverse flute (TWV 40,2-13) [58:09]
Peter Sheppard Skaerved (violin)
rec. November 2013, Church of St John the Baptist, Aldbury, Hertfordshire
The Great Violins - Volume 1: Andrea Amati, 1570
ATHENE ATH23203 [69:02 + 58:09]

12 Fantasias for Solo Violin
Federico Guglielmo (violin)
rec. January 2011, Sala della Carità, Padua, Italy DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94616 [71:07]

Music for a melody instrument without any accompaniment is rather rare, especially in the baroque era. The sonatas and partitas for violin solo and the suites for cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are by far the most famous specimens of this genre. To them one can add the Passacaglia by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber and another piece from Bach's pen: the partita for transverse flute. Georg Philipp Telemann also contributed to this genre: his twelve Fantasias for transverse flute are fairly well known and part of the standard repertoire of flautists and recorder players. In comparison the twelve fantasias for violin solo are far less often performed and recorded. From that angle it is remarkable that at about the same time two recordings were released.

These fantasias date from the 1730s and were part of a series of four collections of fantasias for different instruments which were printed between 1732 and 1735. In 1732/33 a set of twelve fantasias for the transverse flute was printed. This was followed in 1735 by twelve fantasias for violin and for viola da gamba respectively as well as three sets of twelve fantasias each for the harpsichord. Telemann published these works himself, as he did so often. They were intended for Kenner and Liebhaber: professional and amateur performers. They had to be technically challenging enough for the former but not too difficult for the latter. Most of Telemann's instrumental music was written for these two categories and in recent years he had won much experience in composing music which was attractive to both. Especially his series of periodicals which he published in 1728 and 1729 under the title of Der getreue Music-Meister included a wide variety of pieces for different scorings. Part of that collection were a gigue for violin solo and a sonata for viola da gamba solo.

The word fantasia is not used here in the traditional manner as a piece with a strongly improvisatory character but refers to the diversity of forms which are included here. When Telemann announced the publication he mentioned that six fantasias included fugues and six were written in the galant idiom. However, there is no strict division between the two categories: in the fantasias which include fugal movements we also find traces of the galant idiom. The number of movements varies from three to four; in two fantasias one movement has to be repeated. There is no fixed order of movements: some follow the texture of the Corellian sonata da chiesa but others have an order which was to become the standard in the mid-18th century: slow, fast, fast. Although Telemann composed most of his instrumental music with amateurs in mind, they must have been pretty skilled, because especially in the second half of the set he makes use of a variety of violin techniques which require quite some skills. If we talk about amateurs of the baroque era, we should not underestimate their technical capabilities. Most amateurs were from the higher echelons of society and playing an instrument was usually part of their education.

Both performers use historical instruments. Federico Guglielmo plays a copy of a violin made by G.B. Guadagnini, known as 'Rabinof', dating from 1761. Peter Sheppard Skaerved's recording is part of a project under the title of 'Great Violins' in which famous historical violins are played. In Telemann he plays a violin made by Andrea Amati in 1570. It is gut-strung and the pitch is a=416 Hz. The bow is a copy of a historical bow. Guglielmo's violin is tuned at a=415 Hz. Basically there is no difference here between the two performers. However, the result is quite different. One difference concerns the sound which is partly the result of the acoustic. The miking in Skaerved's recording apparently was pretty close. One probably hears the music as the player himself hears it. This can be a bit disturbing and I personally didn't like it that much. However, considering that this music was likely intended for private entertainment this could well be the way the original performers may have heard it. In comparison Guglielmo recorded the fantasias in a space which seems pretty large, considering the amount of reverberation. This is the other extreme: I would have liked a more intimate recording.

That is all the more disappointing as I prefer his interpretation. It is more differentiated in articulation, dynamics and tempi. Skaerved, in his liner-notes, refers to the "melancholy sentiment"in the Fantasia No. 3 in f minor, whose key the 18th-century theorist Schubart connects to "deep depression, funeral lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave". Those features come far better to the fore in Guglielmo's interpretation than in Skaerved's. Guglielmo pays more attention to the differences between good and bad notes than Skaerved and as a result the rhythmic pulse in many movements, and especially the dance movements, comes off best in his recording. Overall he takes a swifter tempo in the fast movements and plays the slow movements a little slower. Because of that he creates a larger contrast between individual movements. However, like I wrote, Skaerved's performance has an intimacy which is absent in Guglielmo's recording. Those who have a special interest in historical violins will be interested in this disc anyway. And I certainly don't want to suggest that Skaerved's recording is bad, even though I often did not like the tone of the violin, whether that is due to the acoustic or to the style of playing. I am not entirely sure, though, whether this violin is still in its original condition. Could it possibly be that in the course of time this violin was modernized? Could this partly explain the difference in sound between this violin and Guglielmo's? After all, gut strings are important but only one part of an 'authentic' performance.

Purchasing Skaerved's recording has a plus-point in that one also gets a performance of the twelve fantasias for flute solo. I have heard the some of the violin fantasias being played on the recorder but I can't remember ever having heard the flute fantasias on other instruments than the transverse flute or the recorder. I am not sure whether I want to hear them that way because this performance has not convinced me that the violin is a suitable medium for these pieces. I had even more trouble with the sound of the violin than in the violin fantasias and that could be - apart from the acoustic - due to the fact that the violin doesn't quite fit them. Having listened to them I felt unsatisfied, especially in those fantasias which I know pretty well from performances on flute or recorder. But if you purchase this set you can judge for yourself. I prefer the original scoring here; quite a number of recordings on flute or recorder are available. For me this performance on the violin is little more than a curiosity.

Johan van Veen
www.musica-dei-donum.org
twitter.com/johanvanveen

Contents (Athene)
12 Fantasias for violin (TWV 40,14-25) [69:02]
Fantasia No. 1 in B flat (TWV 40,14) [7:41]
Fantasia No. 2 in G (TWV 40,15) [4:58]
Fantasia No. 3 in f minor (TWV 40,16) [5:08]
Fantasia No. 4 in D (TWV 40,17) [5:24]
Fantasia No. 5 in A (TWV 40,18) [4:31]
Fantasia No. 6 in e minor (TWV 40,19) [8:56]
Fantasia No. 7 in E flat (TWV 40,20) [7:58]
Fantasia No. 8 in E (TWV 40,21) [3:54]
Fantasia No. 9 in b minor (TWV 40,22) [5:37]
Fantasia No. 10 in D (TWV 40,23) [4:15]
Fantasia No. 11 in F (TWV 40,24) [5:59]
Fantasia No. 12 in a minor (TWV 40,25) [4:42]
12 Fantasias for transverse flute (TWV 40,2-13) [58:09]
Fantasia No. 1 in A (TWV 40,2) [3:26]
Fantasia No. 2 in a minor (TWV 40,3) [4:48]
Fantasia No. 3 in b minor (TWV 40,4) [4:22]
Fantasia No. 4 in B flat (TWV 40,5) [4:41]
Fantasia No. 5 in C (TWV 40,6) [4:27]
Fantasia No. 6 in d minor (TWV 40,7) [5:01]
Fantasia No. 7 in D (TWV 40,8) [5:12]
Fantasia No. 8 in e minor (TWV 40,9) [4:26]
Fantasia No. 9 in E (TWV 40,10) [5:35]
Fantasia No. 10 in f sharp minor (TWV 40,11) [6:04]
Fantasia No. 11 in G (TWV 40,12) [4:28]
Fantasia No. 12 in g minor (TWV 40,13) [6:00]

Brilliant Classics
Fantasia No. 1 in B flat (TWV 40,14) [7:40]
Fantasia No. 2 in G (TWV 40,15) [4:32]
Fantasia No. 3 in f minor (TWV 40,16) [4:32]
Fantasia No. 4 in D (TWV 40,17) [4:53]
Fantasia No. 5 in A (TWV 40,18) [5:05]
Fantasia No. 6 in e minor (TWV 40,19) [8:30]
Fantasia No. 7 in E flat (TWV 40,20) [8:43]
Fantasia No. 8 in E (TWV 40,21) [4:54]
Fantasia No. 9 in b minor (TWV 40,22) [6:34]
Fantasia No. 10 in D (TWV 40,23) [5:09]
Fantasia No. 11 in F (TWV 40,24) [5:59]
Fantasia No. 12 in a minor (TWV 40,25) [4:33]




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