CD Review | Telemann Fantasias – Shaun Ng

by | Apr 2, 2024 | Ambassador thoughts, CD/Recording, Viol

Telemann Fantasias | Shaun Ng

This double CD of the Telemann Fantasias for solo viola da gamba is a new release on the A415 Music label (CD008) from the Sydney-based player Shaun Ng.

Georg Philipp Telemann is well-known as a one of the most prolific composers of all time, with an oeuvre of something like 3000 compositions, many of which have been lost. His Twelve Fantasias for Viola da Gamba Solo, TWV 40:26–37, were considered to be in the lost category, but were actually re-discovered in 2015 in the state archive of Lower Saxony. They were then republished in 2016, and recorded in that year by the German gambist Thomas Fritzsch.

Telemann was a multi-instrumentalist, which is something that Shaun Ng shares, as Shaun performs professionally around Australia on instruments of the violin, da gamba and lute families, while also running a successful music teaching studio in Sydney.

The record label (A415 Music), was established by Shaun Ng, and the name refers to the pitch of a1=415, which gambas and lutes often perform at, though on this particular recording Shaun uses a lower pitch of a1=392, because Shaun is performing on a historic instrument: a bass viol by Jean Nicholas Lambert, made in Paris, in 1739.

Shaun explains that “a lot of French instruments were designed with those lower pitches in mind, and so it makes sense to go low especially when I’m not performing with anyone else. That is not to say it [the instrument] doesn’t work well at 415, but it does lose a certain resonance when more tension is applied to the instrument. Generally, lower tension instruments have more resonance while higher tension instruments gain volume (while losing resonance).”

The Lambert bass viol is the only original French antique viol in Australia and it is interesting to speculate that the original owner of the viol may also have played the Telemann fantasias, which had been published four years earlier.

Telemann lived to the ripe old age of 86, and his musical style spans both the baroque style (he was four years older than Bach and Handel and knew them both) and the early classical, or ‘galant’ style of Bach’s sons. As well as the sheer quality of his music, he is also important in music history as one of the first composers to begin self-publishing and support himself from his music, rather than from noble patronage.

These fantasias are mostly in three short movements: fast-slow-fast, and Shaun is a convincing advocate for them. This is very attractive, tuneful music, expertly played, and will appeal to lovers of early music, and lovers of fine string-playing.

The album can be streamed from all the usual places or purchased as a CD or a download in high-resolution audio from Shaun Ng’s website. Here’s a link >>

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About The Author

Clive Lane

This review is a joint effort by Clive Lane and Marjory Ellsmore. Clive is a Sydney-based composer, specialising in music for guitar, recorder, viols, small ensembles, band music and choral music. He is published by Wirripang Music and Orpheus Music. Marjory is a languages specialist with extensive choral experience.

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