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Telemann: 12 Fantasias for Viola - Bryła

Telemann: 12 Fantasias for Viola - Bryła

Prelude Classics  PCL2300601

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Telemann: 12 Fantasias for Viola solo (arr. from the first viola da gamba edition by Michał Bryła)

Michał Bryła - viola


The 250th death anniversary of Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) having been celebrated five years ago, his name is still not very well established among music lovers in Poland. He was, nevertheless, one of the most eminent representatives of German music in the 1st half of the 18th century, listed with such composers, highly regarded in our country, as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel, both of whom were Telemann’s friends. In the 1st half of the 18th century Telemann enjoyed a much higher reputation than J.S. Bach and was, without a doubt, the key figure in German music life as well as an artist of international fame. This versatile artist was active in many places, including in Poland. In Żary (Germ. Sorau), Silesia, and Lesser Poland he became acquainted with Polish music, which he valued highly and drew upon in his own works.

A man of many talents, he was dedicated first and foremost to music. He left behind an enormous output, larger than those of other great and prolific composers of that era and encompassing all the genres practiced at that time. He composed for current needs, for the Church (when he held the post of cantor) and opera houses (which he directed in various periods of his life). He was a focused Kapellmeister, leader of ensembles, and himself played several instruments with much success, as when, for instance, he held the post of court composer in Eisenach, giving performances with violin virtuoso Pantaleon Hebenstreit (1667-1750), a fact that Telemann mentions in his autobiography.

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - October 13, 2023

This is a first in every sense, or should I say: The perfect one-man show? Michał Bryła may not be a household name for all of us, though he did earn many laurels on several international stages, his versatility reaches beyond just being an excellent viola player. Prelude Classics (Music Records Factory) evolved out of his wish to “pursue my passion by becoming a publisher and thus embodying my aesthetic sense in specific tangible products that I can identify with”. But it doesn’t stop there. With this release, Bryła demonstrates that, next to being a qualified player and entrepreneurial publisher, he also is a confirmed arranger and a perfectionist recording engineer.

Before going into the nitty gritty of a review, let me congratulate Michał Bryła for introducing a new label into the world of Hi-Resolution. Although this present release is not the first of his Music Record Factory, it is his first multi-channel Super Audio disc. And a darn good one at that.

In 2015, Telemann’s 12 Fantasias for Viola da Gamba thought to be lost, resurfaced in Germany. Michał Bryła took on the difficult job of arranging them for Viola. It meant transposing a score written for six strings to four whilst keeping the atmosphere and compositional characteristics as much as possible. I compared it with a recent TRPTK Hi-Res Viola da Gamba recording and the result is startling. Not only in a musical sense but also in terms of engineering. It must have been a stressful operation going back and forth between playing and recording.

On the playing.
I’m not sure whether it is an advantage, but I happen to be very sensitive to intonation. Small frequency changes mean ‘out of tune’. Even if players use a lot of vibrato to cover it up. The result is that for me many solo string players face an uphill battle. The slow opening of the first Fantasia confirmed that Michał Bryła belongs to a limited group of Viola players that can actually compete with such eminent artists as Tabea Zimmerman. With little or no vibrato at all, Bryła convincingly paints a cycle of twelve colourfully shaded phantasies in a way Telemann must have wanted us to hear.

On the sound.
It will certainly please many readers to learn that for Prelude Classics “sound is no less important than the music”. The booklet contains a drawing of the microphone set-up. It is derived from the famous 1950s Decca Tree cult-status configuration and adapted by Michał Bryła to accommodate today’s demand for the best possible sound reproduction, recording at 384kHz frequency and with 32-bit audio resolution. Listening to the result, he has, much to my delight, refrained from creating an in certain circles popular immersive surround. It is sufficient for a 3-dimensional ambient environment without losing track of where the sound comes from, or, in other words, where the musician sits.

In conclusion.
This new branch at the Tree of Music Connoisseurs is a revelation and in its arranged format a world-premiere collector's item. Recorded in the Church of St Casimir in Kobyłka, Poland, which is the home town of this label, just northeast of Warsaw. The playing, the sound, and the liner notes are at a superbly high standard. We can only hope that ‘Prelude’ means that there is more to come. Poland has a rich musical tradition that goes far beyond Chopin, Szymanowski, and Penderecki, and which is waiting to be recorded in high resolution by a label that values music more than anything else.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2023 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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