Freek Borstlap / Spirit of Gambo

Kühnel: Viola da Gamba Sonatas & Partitas

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Here's a collection of viol pieces from a composer who remained little exposed even during the revival of viol music in the 1990s. August Kühnel, born in Mecklenburg, studied in Paris and then worked and performed around northern and central Germany, where Italian fashions ruled in the late seventeenth century. The program here is drawn from a collection of 14 pieces published either in 1701 (if you believe the track list) or in 1698 (if you believe the booklet notes by second gambist Ivanka Neeleman). The tracklist is a bit confusing; all the sonatas, even those marked "viola da gamba solo," are accompanied by one of a variety of continuo formations, with a harpsichord, lute, organ, and a continuo gamba all on hand. That adds unusual diversity to the sounds of the music, and the pieces are formally diverse as well. Some have just one movement; some have two or three; the Sonata No. 5 for two violas da gamba that concludes the program is a seven-movement suite. Neeleman calls that an "Italian-style duo," but actually it's the closest to a French suite even though all the dances are given Italian names. Neeleman is right to call Kühnel a forerunner of Bach, for French dance rhythms, Italian virtuoso and melodic writing, and German polyphony are artfully blended in the music. The track titles, mostly prelude or aria, give little clue as to what you're about to hear; the last movement of the Sonata No. 1 for two violas da gamba (track 3), though marked aria, is a pure sarabande. The result, in the capable hands of an ensemble of Wieland Kuijken students led by gambist Freek Borstlap, is a collection of music that seems to veer from the interiority of the French gamba masters to the light spirit of Telemann, with all the shades in between represented. The sound, from a cavernous, empty church in the city of Haarlem, is a negative here, but on balance this is a recording that will fill a gap for many Baroque collections and offers enjoyable listening for anyone enamored of the viola da gamba.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Sonata for 2 viola da gamba & continuo No. 1 (from Sonate ò Partite)
1
2:21
2
2:41
3
2:54
Sonata for bass viol No. 11 in D minor (from Sonate ò Partite)
4
1:31
Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 7 (from Sonate ò Partite)
5
3:06
6
2:03
7
4:10
Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 10 (from Sonate ò Partite)
8
9:55
Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 13 (from Sonate ò Partite)
9
1:26
Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 8 (from Sonate ò Partite)
10
4:22
11
7:35
Sonata for viola da gamba & continuo No. 12 (from Sonate ò Partite)
12
1:47
Sonata for 2 viols & continuo No. 2 in E minor (from Sonate ô Partite)
13
1:32
14
4:26
15
3:17
Sonata for 2 viola da gamba & continuo No. 5 ("Serenata") (from Sonate ò Partite)
16
4:45
17
0:45
18
0:58
19
0:46
20
1:52
21
1:03
22
0:35
blue highlight denotes track pick