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Francesco Maria CATTANEO (c1697 - 1758): "Violin Concertos"

Anton Steck, violina; Wouter Verschuren, bassoonb
L'arpa festante
Dir: Anton Steck

rec: June 14 - 16, 2019, Müllheim/Baden, Martinskirche
Accent - ACC 24364 (© 2020) (73'23")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Overture in c minor; Sinfonia in G; Sinfonia in B flat; Francesco Maria CATTANEO: Concerto for violin, 2 oboes, strings and bc in Fa; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in Aa; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A 'Gradual Concerto'a; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A 'Schwerin Concerto'a; Concerto for violin, bassoon, strings and bc in Dab

Henriette Boehm, Johannes Knoll, oboe; Wouter Verschuren, bassoon; Christoph Hesse, Angelika Balzer, Georgia Höpfner, Gabriela Scheinpflug, Johanna Weber, Margarete Härtl, Michael Gusenbauer, Christine Rox, violin; Franz Rauch, Friederike Kremers, viola; Daniela Wartenberg, Helga Löhrer, cello; Haralt Martens, violone; Toshinori Ozaki, lute; Rien Voskuilen, harpsichord

During the first half of the 18th century, the Dresden court orchestra was considered one of the best in the German-speaking world. It had some of the best instrumentalists in its ranks, and was held together by Johann Georg Pisendel, Konzertmeister from 1728 until his death. He was not only a brilliant violinist, a typical product of the German violin school, but he was also an avid collector of music. The library of the court orchestra is now preserved in the Dresden State Library, and collectively known as Schrank II. In recent years, pieces from this collection have been recorded, and the Accent disc under review here includes further pieces from it, among them five concertos from the pen of Francesco Maria Cattaneo, who in 1756 became Konzertmeister, as successor to Pisendel, who had died the year before. Even so, he did not make it into New Grove.

Cattaneo was one of many players from elsewhere who entered the orchestra. He was probably from Lodi in northern Italy; nothing is known about his musical education. His name first appears as a member of the court chapel in Munich in 1717/18. At the latest in 1721, he was in Dresden, where he was first employed by Count Jakob Heinrich von Flemming, one of Elector August II's ministers, who had his own chapel. However, it seems that Cattaneo had set his eyes on the court chapel from the onset, and in 1726, when the court was in Warsaw (August was also King of Poland), he was appointed violinist in the court orchestra. In 1728 he travelled to Venice, and there he may have met Antonio Vivaldi, whose music was greatly appreciated in Dresden. In 1716, Pisendel had also been in Venice, where he met Vivaldi and Albinoni, who both gave him some of their sonatas. During his whole career, Pisendel held Italian music in high esteem, and music in the Italian style takes an important place in the Dresden music library (and today in Schrank II).

In the 1730s, Cattaneo was given the title of chamber violinist, and may have acted as Pisendel's substitute. Their relationship seems not to have been very good. In a letter to his friend Georg Philipp Telemann, Pisendel accused Cattaneo of "laziness", which made him "more and more hated at court here". He also hinted at Cattaneo's ambitions; these came true after Pisendel's death. However, he did not have much time to enjoy his position as Konzertmeister, as he died in December 1758, two years after his appointment as Pisendel's successor.

Cattaneo's oeuvre comprises solo and trio sonatas as well as solo concertos. The concertos recorded by Anton Steck and l'arpa festante represent his entire output in this department. They are recorded here for the first time. Four are for violin, one is a double concerto for violin and bassoon. They are modelled after Vivaldi's concertos; four of them are in three movements. The exception is the Concerto in A, which opens this disc and is given here the nickname 'Gradual Concerto', as it is assumed that it was intended to be performed during the Gradual. The fact that it opens with an adagio points in that direction. The performance of music for solo violin during the liturgy in Dresden is confirmed by the organ builder Johann Andreas Silbermann in his travel diary.

The Concerto in F has also two movements, but here the last movement has been lost, and the middle movement is incomplete; for this recording the latter has been reconstructed by Anton Steck. He also plays his own cadenza in the last movement of the 'Gradual' Concerto in A. The last piece in the programme is another Concerto in A, and this is the longest of the five concertos. That is largely due to the cadenza in the closing allegro, which takes about two minutes. It may have been written by Cattaneo himself, but Sebastian Biesold, in his liner-notes, suggests that this could also be from the pen of Pisendel. A large part of the manuscript, including the cadenza, is in his handwriting, and it is known that Pisendel often added something to music which he copied for performance by the court orchestra. The cadenza is virtuosic and shows strong similarity with the Capricci that Locatelli added to his violin concertos.

In the Concerto in D for violin and bassoon, the two solo instruments are treated on equal footing. The bassoon part is no less demanding than that of the violin. The accompaniment is given to strings and basso coontinuo, as in most of the concertos. Only in the Concerto in F, two oboes join the strings. They take a more prominent role in the anonymous pieces included here.

These are also taken from Schrank II. The two Sinfonias are short pieces in three movements. The Sinfonia in B flat is for strings and basso continuo, in the Sinfonia in G, two oboes are added. These two items are written in the Italian style. In contrast, the Overture in c minor represents the French style and has the most common scoring: two oboes, bassoon, strings and basso continuo. It is one of many orchestral suites written in Germany by the likes of Telemann, Graupner, Fasch and Bach, to mention the best-known. It is in five movements; three of them are in binary form. The first is the opening ouverture: the A section has the characteristic dotted rhythms of French overtures, the B section is a fugue. The third and fifth movements are dances - alla breve and menuet respectively - with a trio. The trios are scored for the oboes and the bassoon, without the participation of the strings. The other two movements - aria cantabile and presto respectively - also include short episodes for the winds; the latter even has a short solo for the bassoon.

This is a quite fascinating disc, which gives the opportunity to become acquainted with five excellent concertos by a hitherto completely unknown master. And a master at the violin he was, judging by the technical and musical qualities of these concertos. These pieces are valuable additions to the violin concerto repertoire. Anton Steck is also a master on his instrument; he delivers technically impeccable and musically compelling performances, which stand out for differentiation in articulation and dynamics. Wouter Verschuren deserves praise for his performance of the bassoon part in the Concerto in D. L'arpa festante is the perfect partner and is in outstanding form in the concertos as well as in the anonymous pieces. Especially the Overture in c minor receives an excellent performance.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Anton Steck
Wouter Verschuren

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