Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Twelve Fantasias for solo violin, TWV 40:14-25
Kinga Augustyn (violin)
rec. Patrych Sound Studios, Bronx, New York, 2015
CENTAUR CRC3607 [71:37]
Telemann is famously the most prolific of composers, even putting Vivaldi in the shade with a catalogue of around 3,400 works. So it is no surprise to find that the 12 Fantasias for violin represent just a part of TWV40, the chamber music without basso continuo. There are in total over 200 such works including 36 Fantasias, 12 each for flute, bass viol and for the violin. Whilst on the subject, TWV33, the category of music for keyboard, contains 36 more Fantasias now usually performed on the harpsichord. Gabriel Schaff's useful notes explain that the violin works are all either church or secular sonatas in form, four or three movement. These movements are not separately tracked because the works are themselves fairly short. The pieces are in eleven carefully chosen key centres. Chosen, that is, to vary mood and emotion. Because this is stated in Schaff's notes without explanation it might be worth saying a little more.
The whole issue of key characteristics was much discussed and written about in the 17th, 18th and very early 19th centuries. Such theorists as Athanasius Kircher (1650) and Johann Mattheson (1713) wrote entire treatises during which musical keys were identified as expressing certain emotions. Even today we tend to describe, for example, G minor, as a serious and possibly tragic key, and C major as in some way triumphant. The descriptions given by Mattheson were much more detailed and extensive. So Telemann's choice, the sequence of keys he chose for the violin Fantasias, is most certainly not casual or random but the result of much thought. The modern-day listener is unlikely to be much influenced or affected and my own research suggests these emotional classifications are on shaky foundations. It is no surprise that Mattheson himself, despite espousing such affective categories of his own, seemed very doubtful about those of earlier writers.
Kinga Augustyn is clearly a very accomplished player. These works, which I am told are used as academic exercises on Baroque violinist courses, are negotiated as cleanly as one could wish. She has not had her instrument setup for period performance, as she has stated elsewhere and as clearly shown in the cover photo where the modern bow, strings, bridge, chinrest, etc. are evident. So despite the fact, emphasised in the marketing, that the violin was built by Antonio Zanotti in the year Telemann wrote the Fantasias, 1734, it is really only the body that is 'original'. This does account for the quite powerful sound she makes. Just as in many recorded performances of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, this takes away nothing from the musical impact of Telemann's top class music, or from Augustyn's stylish playing. Each work is beautifully moulded and they make for somewhat easier listening than J.S.Bach's much more serious and extended pieces.
The playing and the clean recording combine to make this an excellent disc which is firmly recommended.