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Johan van Veen
MusicWeb International, July 2015

Berger delivers good performances and his own variations match the style of these chorales. If you don’t have a particular liking for German chorales, you can still enjoy Berger’s engaging performances and his creativity in the variations. © 2015 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2015

The source of this wealth of arrangements for unaccompanied viola da gamba is still totally unknown, the only indication coming from of the initials ‘J.R’. They appear three times in this bound volume of works published in Berlin with the date 1674, though many might well have originated very much earlier. Indeed whether all of the arrangements came from the same hand is equally unclear, though, whatever the source, they were obviously the work of a much experienced practitioner of the instrument. That in turn may point to someone in the employ of a royal household, for he was certainly well versed in both church and secular music, the theme for many of the chorale variations having been traced back to hymns of that period. Now residing in Paris, this historic document has gained the name, The Berlin Gamba Book, Dietmar Berger having drawn from its mix of many differing pieces, the thirty-five pieces written as Choral Variations. That may suggest a somewhat rhythmically stilted disc, but that it is very far from the case, as the ‘hymns’ express both sadness and joy, the twelfth on the first disc, O du betrubter Tag, being a particularly catchy tune. Berger adds to the tonal colours by playing both the bass Viola de gamba—that predominates—and the treble instrument that lightens the texture in such charming tracks as Sey mein Gluck, and the double stopping that characterises Nun schleft sie schon. That they are all ‘World Premiere Recordings’ removes any source of comparison, though Berger brings such clarity to his playing, even in the requirement of deftness in the mercurial decorations, that I guess they would be highly regarded in any company. My hope is that Naxos will now allow him to investigate the remaining works in this book—wherever they take us. The church acoustic in Cologne and the German recording are both ideal. Fervently commended. © 2015 David’s Review Corner

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