The Rise Of The North Italian Violin Concerto Vol 1
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THE RISE OF THE NORTH ITALIAN VIOLIN CONCERTO 1690–1740—VOL. I: THE DAWN OF THE VIRTUOSO • Adrian Chandler (vn), dir; Mhairi Lawson (sop); 1 La Serenissima (period instruments) • AVIE 2106 (77:51 & )
NAVARA Sinfonia/Sonatas: in C; in a. COMPOSER X Laudate pueri Dominum, RV Anh 20. 1 LEGRENZI 3 Balletti e correnti, op. 16. ALBINONI Concerto in G, op. 2/8. VALENTINI Concerto with 4 Violins Obbligato, op. 7/11. VIVALDI Violin Concertos: in G, RV 310; for 4 Violins, RV 580
According to the booklet’s biography, the Arts and Humanities Research Council awarded Adrian Chandler a fellowship at Southampton University to study the development of the violin concerto in northern Italy from 1690 to 1740, a project that apparently resulted in Avie’s recording items from that literature. Although the title of the collection, “The Dawn of the Virtuoso” might suggest some of Vivaldi’s most fanciful flights, the level of technique demanded by the collection’s works remains on a rather low level. Navara’s five-part Sinfonia or Sonata in C Major (as well as the one in A Minor), for example, may feature what the notes describe as “imposing” violin parts, but they can hardly make an electrifying impression on today’s audiences, inured by Ernst and Paganini to relatively subdued technical feats like Navara’s (while curiously, Vivaldi’s violin parts can still make a listener’s heart pound).
The Laudate pueri Dominum by “Composer X” apparently belonged to a group of pieces that Vivaldi himself had studied. Mhairi Lawson’s rich lower register lends a somber quality to the work, although she brings startlingly dramatic excitement to the “Suscitans” section. Legrenzi’s Balletti e corrente (a selection of six very brief pieces scored for what the Adrian Chandler’s notes describe as the “typical” north Italian ensemble of two violins, alto viola, tenor viola, and cello: Balletto II in G Minor, Corrente II in G Minor, Balletto IV in E Minor, Corrente IV in E Minor, Balletto VI in F Major, and Corrente VI in F) sound bracingly crisp and energetic, bubbling with virtuosic energy if not energetic virtuosity.
Chandler identifies Albinoni’s op. 2 as the first work regularly to include solo passages. But although Albinoni supposedly distributed the “lion’s share” of these in the Eighth Concerto, written for four solo violins with strings, striking solos in the manner of Vivaldi’s Concertos, op. 3 (the tenth of which La Serenissima includes in the collection) just don’t make an appearance. Valentini’s Eleventh Concerto, in six movements (one of them multisectional), sounds far more progressive in the quicksilver writing for the solo instruments in the second movement and especially in the brilliant fourth-movement Presto—as well as in the bold but skillfully laid-out chromatic passages of the opening one. At more than 17 minutes’ duration, the piece dwarfs all the other purely instrumental ones in the program. After all these historical divagations, Vivaldi still sounds masterly, both in his solo Concerto, RV 310, and in the celebrated Concerto for Four Violins, RV 580, to which Chandler and the ensemble have added stirring rhetorical flourishes and richly conceived ornamentation.
La Serenissima, recorded crisply in an amply resonant ambiance, plays with a bracingly accented and thumping, though bubbling, bounce that emphasizes the bass’s strong underpinning role; they eschew both the lushness of modern instrumental sounds and the whining and edgy abrasiveness of period ones. Much of the repertoire may be unfamiliar to listeners, but Chandler and La Serenissima make it highly accessible. Recommended to general listeners as heartily as to students of the period.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Catalog Number: AV2106
Composer: Anonymous, Antonio Vivaldi, Francesco Navara, Giovanni Legrenzi, Giuseppe Valentini, Tomaso Albinoni
Conductor: Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble: La Serenissima
Performer: Adrian Chandler, Mhairi Lawson