A fine recording
This is a fine recording. These gamba sonatas by Telemann were only rediscovered in 2015, and Robert Smith is one of the first to release a recording of them. In fact, I heard Paolo Pandolfo's slightly more recent recording first and was so taken with the music that I wanted to hear what another gambist made of them. I'm very gad I did, because Smith's is beautifully played interpretation.
Telemann's music is very good indeed. What I said of it in my review of Pandolfo's recording still applies: "Anyone who still believes the old canard that Telemann was a superficial composer of baroque wallpaper need only to listen to the opening Fantasia in C minor here to have that firmly dispelled. Telemann may not have been another Bach, but then nobody ever has been; he was a fine composer in his own right and all of these are works of depth, thoughtfulness and real compositional skill. The minor-key Fantasias are especially fine, I think, with a genuine intellectual and spiritual weight. They are a delight to listen to."
They are an especial delight in Robert Smith's hands. I hadn't heard him play before, but he is a very fine gambist with a beautiful tone, excellent technique and an expressive feel for what he is playing. His approach is a little more restrained and less flamboyant that Pandolfo's (as is most people's) and I like both very much. Smith gives these works depth and dignity, but they still dance and have plenty of that Telemann charm where appropriate. The recorded sound is excellent with a good balance of clarity and resonance in the acoustic, so the overall sound is fabulous.
With Smith's thoughtful notes and very attractive presentation this is a very fine release all round and warmly recommended.