Fanfare, Dec. 2022

Telemann's 12 Fantasias for Violin without Bass first appeared in Hamburg in 1735, during a period when the composer seems to have been preoccupied with works for unaccompanied solo in- struments; similar collections exist for flute, harpsichord, and viola da gamba. As the liner notes point out, calling these works "fantasias" freed Telemann from the conventions of the standard in- strumental suite, allowing for a wide range of forms and techniques. Italianate virtuosity mingles with Teutonic contrapuntal writing, and dance movements live alongside more abstract forms. In a briefessay, Cotik articulates a clear and cohesive interpretive approach that is grounded in contem- porary treatises, conventions of Baroque performance practice, and common-sense music-making. One of his most effective decisions is to treat the duration of note values with flexibility. This single point frees Cotik up to use space and silence to create drama and to imply harmonic underpinnings without beating listeners over the head with them; dotted rhythms are treated with similar plasticity. By using a Baroque bow, he also facilitates idiomatic gestures and natural-sounding phrases and ar- ticulations. This is not to say that Cotik is slavish to the claims to "authenticity" that made histori- cally informed performance practitioners a ripe target to the late Richard Taruskin. Ratheq Cotik de- ploys vibrato judiciously and rubato purposefully, to "bring life and spontaneity to the phrasing," in his own words. This approach strikes a successful balance between the leamed and the intuitive. In short, Cotik's deep knowledge and prodigious technique allow him to make intentional, independent musical decisions without constraint. Bound by a clear artistic vision, the set hangs together as more than the sum ofthe individual fantasias, though they surely stand on their own as separate readings. The playing is pristine, technically, and the recorded sound clear. I might prefer a ful1 period-instru- ment performance to just the Baroque bow, but again, Cotik has good reasons for the decision to use steel strings and he does not make any pretension to historical "authenticity," despite his well-in- formed approach. This is a highly intelligent project in conception and execution. James V. Maiello