Juan De Ledesma: Sonatas Para Violin Y Bajo / Blai Justo, Elisa Joglar, Bernard Zonderman, Et Al

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LEDESMA Violin Sonatas: No. 1 in A; No. 3 in E?; No. 2 in F; No. 5 in A; No. 4 in D Blai Justo (vn); Elisa Joglar (vc); Bernard Zonderman (gtr) (period instruments) RAMÉE 0901 (68:40)

Blai Justo’s own notes to his program of “Spanish Violin Music from the Time of Ferdinand VI” make clear the position of Juan de Ledesma (c. 1713-1781), who led the viola section (in preference to playing violin) in the Spanish Chapel Royal. A pupil, during the end of his student years, of Michele Geminiani (Francesco’s brother) and therefore a musical descendant of Arcangelo Corelli, Ledesma represented the Italian tradition, though nuanced, as Justo points out, with Spanish inflections.

Ledesma’s five sonatas, rediscovered by Lothar Siemens a quarter-century ago, and so recherché as not to receive even a mention in William S. Newman’s comprehensive study of the Baroque sonata, fall into three movements bearing Italian tempo indications (except for the finale of Sonata No. 3, marked Minué ). According to Justo, the unfigured basses suggest that the harpsichord could be omitted; in its place, he substitutes guitar, which he believes doesn’t challenge the dominance of the violin and cello. Bernard Zonderman plays on a Baroque guitar in the sonatas in A Major (No. 1) and D Major and a “pre-Romantic” one in those in E-flat Major and A Major (No. 5); in the Sonata in F Major, only cello accompanies the violin.

The program opens with the First Sonata; its moderately paced first movement, in its forward looking style, sounds a great deal like the sonatas of Giovanni Battista Somis, a composer who, though Corelli’s own pupil, looked forward rather than backward as did his fellow student, Francesco Geminiani (as in Somis’s sonatas, too, the majority of Ledesma’s sonatas begin with a moderately paced introductory movement followed by an expressive slow one and a strutting finale). Justo encrusts its chunky lines with spiky ornamentation, plays the second movement with bracing energy, and imparts jaunty verve to the technically more challenging finale (adding harmonics, perhaps a personal touch, for extra buoyancy). The violin and cello toss motives back and forth in the slow movement of the Sonata in E-flat Major, providing opportunities for cogent dialogue between Justo and Joglar (the movement ends only after a brief cadenza). As in Somis’s sonatas, the composer imparts extra energy to the finale by means of running passages in triplets. Tartini’s sonatas, roughly contemporaneous, often employ basses that look so simple as to suggest that they might be omitted with little loss to the musical argument (Andrew Manze played the “Devil’s Trill” unaccompanied on Harmonia Mundi 907213, Fanfare 21:5). Justo and Joglar play Ledesma’s Second Sonata with such alertness in the dialogue, and the composer has created such full sonorities for the two instruments that listeners may hardly miss the guitar. The Fifth Sonata, at more than 15 minutes the longest, explores perhaps the most sensitive affects in its slow movement; Justo graces its finale with brilliant off-the-string ricochet-like runs, more reminiscent of the 17th-century German school than of the 18th-century Italian one (including the works of such advanced technicians as Corelli’s violinistically exhibitionistic pupil Pietro Locatelli). The duo (without the guitar) plays the Fourth Sonata’s Andantino dolce with pointed, though genial, wit.

Justo plays the program on a Baroque-style violin made by Dmitry Badiarov in 2003 (from which he draws a tone that falls closer to that produced on modern instruments than it does to the once signature whining and wheezing of Baroque ones); Elisa Joglar plays a 1758 Benoit Fleury cello, and Bernard Zonderman plays a 1996 five-course guitar modeled after a 17th-century Italian prototype and a 1995 six-string guitar modeled on guitars by an 1800 Parisian maker. The engineers have balanced these instruments (while making the guitar sound more discreet than do the two outer parts); all seem somewhat distant, re-creating the aural impression a listener might receive in a live performance. Warmly recommended generally and urgently recommended to aficionados of the Baroque era’s violin literature.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: RAM0901

  • UPC: 4250128509015

  • Label: Ramee

  • Composer: Juan De Ledesma

  • Performer: Bernard Zonderman, Blai Justo, Elisa Joglar