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Tomaso ALBINONI (1671 - 1751): Trattenimenti Armonici Op. 6

Zero Emission Baroque Orchestra

rec: March & May 2013, Caravaggio (Bergamo), Santuario di San Bernardino
Brilliant Classics - 94852 (2 CDs) ( 2014) (1.48'08")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Sonata in C, op. 6,1; Sonata in g minor, op. 6,2; Sonata in B flat, op. 6,3; Sonata in d minor, op. 6,4; Sonata in F, op. 6,5; Sonata in a minor, op. 6,6; Sonata in D, op, 6,7; Sonata in e minor, op. 6,8; Sonata in G, op. 6,9; Sonata in c minor, op. 6,10; Sonata in A, op. 6,11; Sonata in B flat, op. 6,12

Tomaso Albinoni was a composer who was different from most of his colleagues in presenting himself as a dilettante. That didn't prevent him from being highly appreciated, not only in Italy but also abroad. His music has been found in many sources across Europe. There are various pirated editions of his works and collections with sonatas claimed to be from his pen. Their authenticity is highly questionable but their quantity bears further witness to his status.

The largest part of his output comprises vocal music, in particular operas. He composed more than eighty of these most of which are lost. Today his vocal works are hardly ever performed. His instrumental music fares much better: the catalogue lists many recordings of his chamber music and concertos.

The present disc includes the twelve sonatas for violin and bc op. 6. These were printed in Amsterdam around 1712, under the title Trattenimenti armonici. This title, "harmonic entertainments" in English, expresses exactly the purpose for which these sonatas were written. The were for the entertainment of the performers who themselves were probably musical dilettantes and like Albinoni himself, from the higher echelons of society. The technical requirements are considerable which indicates that amateurs of those days were quite skillful.

All the sonatas are in four movements, following the model of the Corellian sonata da chiesa. This has inspired the performers to choose an organ for the realization of the basso continuo part. This is certainly a legitimate option, but the organ is not specifically connected to the sonata da chiesa. This term should not be interpreted as an indication that these sonatas were meant to be played in church. The use of an organ in every sonata is a bit one-sided. After a while I longed for a different sound, such as that of the harpsichord or a plucked instrument. In some movements the basso continuo part is played by the cello alone, and that is certainly an interesting option. It was common practice in Albinoni's days but is seldom adopted in our time.

The three interpreters deliver acceptable performances, according to the rules of historical performance practice. However, I am not that enthusiastic. I have already referred to the lack of variety in the scoring of the basso continuo. I also find Giorgio Tosi's tone a bit thin and his range of expression rather narrow. Not long ago I reviewed a disc with five sonatas by Albinoni, including three from this opus, played by the French violinist Guillaume Rebinguet-Sudre. I wrote: "The dynamic shading and his bow vibrato on long notes and the accentuation of good notes are instrumental in securing a compelling interpretation." That is exactly what I largely missed here. There is a lack of dynamic accenting and in general of differentiation. The contrasts in tempo between the slow and the fast movements is also too limited. By and large Rebinguet-Sudre takes more time in the slow movements. He also needs more time in the fast movements, but that is not because his tempi are slower but because he observes all the repeats. That seems to be not the case here, which is surprising considering the space left on both discs.

On balance, these are competent performances, but not really compelling. I would advise against listening to this set at a single stretch but I probably wouldn't find that problematic in performances like those by Rebinguet-Sudre. The present disc makes good listening if consumed a little at a time.

Johan van Veen ( 2014)

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