Ariosti: Stockholm Sonatas Vol 3 / Georgi, Harris, Yamahiro Brinkmann, Kirkby

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ARIOSTI “Stockholm” Sonatas: No. 15 in f; No. 16 in G; No. 17 in B?; No. 18 in d; No. 19 in a; No. 20 in g; No. 21 in a. Pur alfin gentil viola 1 Thomas Georgi (vda); Lucas Harris (lt, gtr); Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (vdg); Emma Kirkby (sop) 1 (period instruments) BIS 1675 (63:57 Text and Translation)


Attilio Malachia Ariosti (1666–1729) led an amazingly varied life, one that could only have played out amid the opulence of the Baroque era. He started out as an altar boy in Bologna and later took monastic vows, possibly also entering the priesthood. All along he assiduously pursued his musical studies, eventually assuming the post of organist at the basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi. There he attracted the attention of the Duke of Mantua, for whom he began composing operas. Ariosti’s first opera, Tirsi (1697), was such a success that the Duke was encouraged to lend him out to the Berlin court, whose ruler was Sophie Charlotte of Hanover, Electress of Brandenburg and sister of the future George I of England. Ariosti quickly became Sophie’s favorite court musician (Bononcini was employed at the court as well), and became friends with the great Gottfried Leibniz. After Sophie died in 1705, Ariosti declared his (reluctant) desire to return to his monastery, by way of Vienna. The Vienna sojourn at the court of Joseph I stretched to seven years, where he composed operas, oratorios, and cantatas. After Joseph’s widow, Wilhelmina, kicked him out of Vienna (for his ostentatious, non-ecclesiastical behavior) in 1711, Ariosti found employment at the court of the Duke of Anjou (the future Louis XV), in Munich, Württemberg, Durlach, Baden, Lorraine, and at the court of the Duke of Orléans. In 1716 Ariosti sailed for England, where his opera Almahide had been staged in 1708, albeit with two-thirds of the numbers replaced by arias of Bononcini. Ariosti’s first appearance on the London stage was on July 12, 1716, when he played his “New Symphony … upon a New Instrument call’d Viola D’Amour,” between the acts of a Handel opera. Subsequently, the Royal Academy was to commission several operas, but Ariosti was still preoccupied with his diplomatic intrigues and had trouble meeting the deadlines; only one of the operas, Caio Marzio Coriolana (1723), was an unmitigated success, thanks in part to the participation of Cuzzoni and Senesino.


Exactly 21 viola d’amore sonatas survive from the pen of Ariosti; 15 of them owe their existence to Ariosti’s contemporary Swedish musician Johan Helmich Roman, who copied them down while on a visit to London. These survive in manuscript form in a Swedish library, hence the designation. The concluding cantata, Pur alfin gentil viola , is a valedictory work that survives in manuscript in a Darmstadt library. Written in an idiom reminiscent of Handel, the sonatas are remarkable for their brevity. Most movements are less than two minutes; only two of the Adagios are more than three. The structure is usually simple bipartite: AABB, or even ABa (the lower case indicating a brief restatement of the opening theme). The suites typically consist of four movements, in the traditional slow-fast-slow-fast grouping of the Italian sonata da chiesa.


The viola d’amore is one of those colorful “accessory” instruments so popular with Baroque composers. Played under the chin like the violin, it has six or seven sympathetic strings running under the fingerboard that are responsible for the instrument’s characteristic silvery sound. Like the oboe d’amore and the voice flute, the viola d’amore was newly invented; it came into use during the second half of the 17th century, but never became a permanent member of the orchestra. Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi, and Quantz wrote sparingly for the viola d’amore, but it dropped out of sight during the Romantic era. Surprisingly, the instrument has persisted until the present day; composers as diverse as Strauss, Janá?ek, Hindemith, Martin, and Villa-Lobos have been attracted to its gentle, ethereal sound.


Thomas Georgi is an American who performed with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra of Australia for many years, and since 1989 has been a member of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra of Toronto. After joining that group he began to champion the viola d’amore, and has recorded two previous volumes of Ariosti for BIS. Apparently those CDs were never received by Fanfare for review. Georgi is joined by two excellent instrumentalists, lutenist Lucas Harris and gambist Mimi Yamahiro Brinkmann, and the renowned English soprano Dame Emma Kirkby. The performances are models of their kind, with colorful, expressive playing from Georgi, and first-rate contributions from the two continuo players. I applaud the decision to employ archlute (theorbo) and guitar as continuo instruments; a harpsichord would have overwhelmed the delicate sound of the viola d’amore. Of particular interest is the cantata—it demonstrates that Dame Emma’s voice is as beautiful and controlled as ever, even after nearly 40 years before the public.


When the pressures and madness of modern life press in, I can think of nothing better than to retreat into the delicate sound world of Ariosti for rejuvenation. Highly recommended.


FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: BIS-CD-1675


  • UPC: 7318590016756


  • Label: BIS


  • Composer: Attilio Ariosti


  • Performer: Emma Kirkby, Lucas Harris, Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann, Thomas Georgi



Works:


  1. Sonata for Viola d'amour and Bass continuo No 15 in F Minor

    Composer: Attilio Ariosti

    Performer: Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (Cello), Thomas Georgi (Viola d'amore), Lucas Harris (Lute)


  2. Sonata for Viola d'amour and Bass continuo No 16 in G Major

    Composer: Attilio Ariosti

    Performer: Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (Cello), Thomas Georgi (Viola d'amore), Lucas Harris (Lute)


  3. Sonata for Viola d'amour and Bass continuo No 17 in B flat major

    Composer: Attilio Ariosti

    Performer: Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (Cello), Thomas Georgi (Viola d'amore), Lucas Harris (Lute)


  4. Sonata for Viola d'amour and Bass continuo no 18 in D minor

    Composer: Attilio Ariosti

    Performer: Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (Cello), Thomas Georgi (Viola d'amore), Lucas Harris (Lute)


  5. Sonata for Viola d'amour and Bass continuo no 19 in A minor

    Composer: Attilio Ariosti

    Performer: Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (Cello), Thomas Georgi (Viola d'amore), Lucas Harris (Lute)


  6. Sonata for Viola d'amour and Bass continuo no 20 in G minor

    Composer: Attilio Ariosti

    Performer: Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (Cello), Thomas Georgi (Viola d'amore), Lucas Harris (Lute)


  7. Sonata for Viola d'amour and Bass continuo no 21 in A minor

    Composer: Attilio Ariosti

    Performer: Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (Cello), Thomas Georgi (Viola d'amore), Lucas Harris (Lute)


  8. Pur al fin gentil viola

    Composer: Attilio Ariosti

    Performer: Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann (Cello), Thomas Georgi (Viola d'amore), Lucas Harris (Lute), Emma Kirkby (Soprano)