Italian Violin Concerto Vol.3 - The Golden Age

Album cover art for upc 822252215427
Label: AVIE
Catalog: AV2154
Format: CD

Adrian Chandler - Violin and Conductor, La Serenissima Ensemble

VIVALDI: Concerto in F, RV 569. Concerto in D, RV 562a.
LOCATELLI: Concerto da chiesa in c, op. 4/11. Concerto in F, op. 4/12.
SAMMARTINI: Concerto in E flat, J 73.
TARTINI: Violin Concerto in B flat, D 117

Gramophone Award Finalist - Baroque Instrumental 2009
The third of Adrian Chandler’s three volumes devoted to the rise of the North Italian violin concerto comprises works by Antonio Vivaldi—in this case, in combination with brilliantly colorful groups of other instruments—and by composers of roughly the next generation, Pietro Locatelli, Giovanni Battista Sammartini, and Giuseppe Tartini. Although, as Chandler himself points out in his extensive notes, Vivaldi’s Concerto, RV 569, employs a complement of woodwinds that might be found later in Mozart’s violin concertos, the solo violinist still takes the lead, with Chandler’s (and, of course, Vivaldi’s) virtuosity benefiting from the splashy orchestral sonorities rather than having to fight its way through them. Locatelli’s multisectional Concerto da chiesa, op. 4/11, provides a strong contrast after Vivaldi’s, with the contrapuntal severity of its second movement and its generally greater sobriety (Chandler draws connections between this work and Locatelli’s pastoral Concerto for Christmas) and the diminished role of virtuosity (in it, two solo violas and a solo cello join the two solo violins in the manner of a concerto grosso). The other work by Locatelli in the collection, written for four violins (op. 4/12), also exhibits features of the concerto grosso, but the solos’ musical statements seem bolder and their atmosphere more bracing—yet hardly as bracing as the ambiance of Musica Antiqua Köln’s tart and crunchy performance on Archiv, 31:6, which, in some ways I might prefer for a single hearing, though it might not wear as well as a life companion. Sammartini’s two-movement Concerto, J 73, introduces ingratiating dialogue between the solo instruments, though the composer has also enhanced the tuttis with splashy sonorities. The solo violin dominates Tartini’s four-movement Concerto, which Chandler identifies as among the composer’s earliest surviving examples; but the tuttis also work out their thematic materials with notable rigor, often without the soloist’s participation. The slow movement offers an aria-like melody, which Chandler presents with unaffected though affecting sweetness. Vivaldi’s use of timpani in the Concerto, RV 562a, lends it an air of magisterial portentousness (Chandler relates that goatskin heads in use at the time produced a “cleaner” and more imposing sonority), but the solo violin part also contributes to the Concerto’s strutting swagger—not to mention the two oboes, bassoon, and horns. Pitch at A=440 Hz, about which Chandler has included some discussion, relies on the practice of musicians in northern Italy, who reputedly employed a pitch approaching our own, making, where necessary, adjustments, perhaps by transposing the woodwinds, the pitch of which depends on their construction. That’s not the only modern aspect of these performances: Chandler, playing a 1981 Rowland Ross violin “after Amati,” produces a sound far removed from what used to be taken as typical of “period instruments”: freed from the once-trademark wheezing and rasping, it’s a timbre that should satisfy listeners of all types. Though lambent rather than boldly flashing, Chandler’s virtuosity shines through, especially in Vivaldi’s most flamboyant and adventurous passages. The engineers have captured the breathtaking dynamic contrasts in Vivaldi’s concertos and the rich timbral detail of the others, as well. On account of the interest of the individual works and the exhilarating performances, La Serenissima’s collection should appeal to a wider audience than its rather academic title suggests. Strongly recommended to all types of listeners and collectors.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham

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