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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Nuove Sonate"

Ensemble Scaramuccia

rec: Nov 3 - 5, 2015, Delft (NL), HH Maria en Ursulakerk
Ayros - AY-RA02 (66'29")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

anon: Sonata for violin and bc in D; Antonio VIVALDI: Sonata for violin and bc in D (RV 10); Sonata for violin and bc in D (RV 810); Sonata for violin and bc in D (RV 816); Sonata for violin and bc in A (RV 205/2); Sonata for violin, cello and bc in G (RV 820)a

Javier Lupiáñez, violin; Inés Salinas, Roberto Alonsoa, cello; Guilio Quirici, theorbo; Patrícia Vintém, harpsichord

Antonio Vivaldi is one of the most popular composers of the baroque era these days. Hardly a month goes by without at least one new disc devoted to his oeuvre. However, his sonatas for violin and basso continuo seem not to exert that much attraction on performers, as the number of recordings is rather limited, in comparison with that of his collections which were published with an opus number, or concertos for solo instruments. In recent years several discs with violin sonatas have been reviewed here. When I received the present disc I was expecting a programme of sonatas which are already available in other recordings. That is not the case. Although only two pieces on this disc are explicitly marked as first recordings, the other pieces are also pretty rare, and it is probably telling that I have no single disc with any of these pieces in my collection.

The starting point of this recording project was Schrank II in the Dresden library which includes the music played by the court chapel in Dresden under its long-time leader Johann Georg Pisendel. He was one of the greatest violinists of his time, a good fried of the likes of Bach and Telemann, and a great lover of Italian music. During his stay in Italy in 1717 he collected a large amount of music, by composers as Vivaldi and Albinoni - whom he met personally - but also others. A number of sonatas in the collection are anonymous. The programme ends with a piece, whose authorship could not be established. It is a quite virtuosic piece and includes double stopping which was used less frequently by Italian composers than by representatives of the German-Austrian violin school.

Some of the other sonatas could only recently be established as being from Vivaldi's pen. It was only in 2011 that the Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot could identify the Sonata in D (RV 816) as a piece by Vivaldi. It is the only item in this programme which is not from the Schrank II collection; it is preserved in the Foundling Museum in London as part of the Gerald Coke Handel collection. It seems to date from around 1710 and is remarkable for its first movement, as Javier Lupiáñez states in his liner-notes: "It contains a whole movement constructed over a drone in D, which undoubtedly allows the violin to play as freely as if improvising on a single note. This technique was often used by Vivaldi, but never during the whole length of a movement". I was struck by the third movement, a largo which includes a motif that reminds me of the [concerto] from the Four Seasons; the bass part also hase something very familiar.

From about the same time as this sonata is the Sonata in D (RV 810). In 2007 it was catalogued as an anonymous piece. But a comparison with a recorder sonata which had been found a few years earlier and was included in the Ryom catalogue as RV 806 showed that the latter was an arrangement - probably by someone else - of RV 810. As a result the latter has been recognized as authentic and the recorder sonata has been omitted from the catalogue. Another fruit of research is the identification of the Sonata in A (RV 205/2). The RV number refers to the category of the violin concertos. And indeed, the opening movement is almost identical with the slow movement from the Concerto in D (RV 205). There are similarities with other works from Vivaldi's pen as well. However, as Lupiàñez writes, the possibility that this sonata is a kind of pasticcio has to be taken into account.

The disc opens with two pieces which can be connected in the use of material. The most remarkable piece is the Sonata in G (RV 820), scored for violin, cello and bc. Vivaldi's oeuvre includes only one other sonata with this scoring (RV 83). Lupiáñez writes that "[we] are in fact in the presence of Vivaldi's first known composition, a piece which unites the influence of the 17th-century masters with young Vivaldi's style, already changing". It shows the influence of Torelli and Corelli. The sonata is in five movements, some of which have no character indication. When the two instruments play together the cello often imitates the motifs of the violin. But the two instruments also have a movement of their own: the third is for the violin, the fourth for the cello. The manuscript of this piece is not complete; the end is missing and had to be reconstructed. This reconstruction is based on the Sonata in d minor, op. 1,8 (RV 64) which include much material from RV 820.

The same is the case with the Sonata in D (RV 10), especially in the closing movement which uses material from especially the movement for cello solo. This sonata was known for a long time and has been played by virtuosos over the year. However, as it was arranged by Ottorino Respighi it is often played in that arrangement and rarely in its original form. Notable is the frequent double stopping and the use of chromaticism.

This disc is not just one of many. This is a major addition to the Vivaldi discography. Every single piece recorded here deserves to be part of the standard repertoire for the baroque violin. These sonatas also considerably add to our knowledge of Vivaldi and of his contacts with Pisendel. This is the first recording of the Ensemble Scaramuccia. It couldn't have made a better start, not only in regard to repertoire but also as far as the performance is concerned. The playing of all the participants is excellent: technically assured, expressive and with much creativity, for instance in their application of ornamentation, which is partly based on Pisendel's own notes in the manuscript.

This disc is a model of sincere and intelligent music-making. I hope to hear more from these artists.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

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