Here are Telemann’s wonderful solo violin fantasias played by a modern violinist whose style is informed by period-instrument practice. Tomás Cotik favors standard modern pitch, shaping the music in short, angular phrases with minimum vibrato. He makes interpretive points through accents and inflections that seem to make barlines disappear. While his tone is not particularly pretty, Cotik compensates with intellectual intensity and fresh characterizations that are akin to violinists like Gidon Kremer, Paul Zukofsky, and Joseph Szigeti at their best.
A couple of examples cogently demonstrate Cotik’s approach. While some violinists gently ease into the A major Fantasia’s motoric introduction, Cotik plunges into the music full speed, only to abruptly land on the section’s final A-natural; the effect is more of a shock than a cadence. If Augustin Hadelich shapes the B minor’s first section in the manner of a lyrical Siciliana, Cotik’s slower, shorter-breathed reading trades graciousness for fragility.
Of course if you want suavity, symmetry, and gorgeous sonority to the hilt, track down Arthur Grumiaux’s classic 1970 Philips recording. By contrast, Cotik walks a thin line between trenchant and tenuous that beckons your attention at every moment. The booklet notes include an excellent program essay by Frank Cooper, plus clear and insightful commentary from Cotik about his interpretations.