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CD Review

Georg Philipp Telemann

Harmonia Mundi 907137

Fantasias

  • 12 Fantasias for Solo Violin
  • Gulliver Suite *
Andrew Manze, violin
* Caroline Balding, violin
Harmonia Mundi USA HMU907137
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Pursuing authenticity, Andrew Manze prepared the performing editions from Telemann's original manuscripts, and both violinists play real 18th-century instruments (from 1783) – not reproductions – Caroline Balding's being a pearly-toned Amati.

Right from the first fantasia, Telemann shows his characteristic penchant for composing at the extremes of an instrument's range. This dialogue between the highest and lowest notes of the violin is cleanly and smoothly played by Manze with the same lofty poise and control that informs all his performances here. Often resembling dance suites, the fantasias contain popular dances like gigues, Bourrées, menuets, sicilianos, etc. Manze plays the gigues, Bourrées and other fast dances with appropriate spriteliness, while giving the menuets and other slow dances satisfying depth.

The seldom-heard Gulliver Suite for two violins wittily evokes Jonathan Swift's allegorical satire "Gulliver's Travels." For example, Telemann calls one movement "Lilliputian Chaconne." Chaconnes are usually long, stately waltz-like pieces, but Telemann turns this one hilariously into a half-minute gigue filled with short rapid notes (mostly 128ths), creating a chaconne in miniature.

Another movement called "Brobdingnagian Gigue" is just the opposite. Portraying giants in slow motion, it impels like a gigue but drags like a menuet, slowing time and making familiar metrical patterns feel strangely larger as a result. By comparison, the listener feels smaller, shrinking like Alice in Wonderland as the world grows very big around her. Telemann heightens the size contrast even more by placing both these movements side-by-side.

Copyright © 1997, Mark Longaker

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