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Carlo TESSARINI (1690 - after 1766): "6 Violin Sonatas Op. 14; 6 Trio Sonatas Op. 9"

Valerio Losito, Paolo Perrone, violin; Carlo Calegari, violone; Diego Leveric, archlute; Federico Del Sordo, harpsichord

rec: June & July 2018, Rome, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione
Brilliant Classics - 95861 (2 CDs) (© 2019) (1.46'40")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Fedele FENAROLI (1730-1818): Partimento in D; Partimento in F; Partimento in G; Carlo TESSARINI: Divertimento II, op. 2,2; Divertimento IV, op. 2,4; Sonata op. 9,1; Sonata op. 9,2; Sonata op. 9,3; Sonata op. 9,4; Sonata op. 9,5; Sonata op. 9,6; Sonata in B flat, op. 14,1; Sonata in F, op. 14,2; Sonata in G, op. 14,3; Sonata in D, op. 14,4; Sonata in E flat, op. 14,5; Sonata in G, op. 14,6

Sources: Carlo Tessarini, Il maestro e discepolo, op. 2, 1734; Sonate da camera e chiesa ... con pastoralle, op. 9, c1747; VI Sonate a Violino o Flauto Traversiere e Cembalo, op. 14, 1748; Fedele Fenaroli, Partimenti ossia Basso numerato, c1800

Considering the fact that travelling was rather uncomfortable in the 17th and 18th centuries, it is remarkable how many performing musicians and composers moved across Europe. Carlo Tessarini is a good example. He was born in Rimini, worked at first in Venice, and in the course of his career also in Camerino, Brünn, Rome, Naples, Fano, Assisi, Paris, the Low Countries, London and Aix-la-Chapelle. It seems that he died in the Netherlands, probably in 1767. His last documented performance as a violinist took place in Arnhem, a small town in the east of the country, in 1766.

We know very little about his formative years. He was educated as a violinist, and music for his own instrument dominates his oeuvre, which is quite sizeable. Many collections of instrumental music, from solo sonatas to 'grand sinfonias', were printed. The catalogue of his works, put together by Paola Besutti, comprises 280 items. Valerio Losito apparently focuses on the performance and recording of his oeuvre. The production under review here is the sequel to a recording of violin sonatas from different collections. Here, he and his colleagues perform two complete collections, supplemented by pieces from two other editions.

The trio sonatas Op. 9 were printed in Paris around 1747. They show strong similarity with a set of trio sonatas which was published by Witvogel in Amsterdam as the Op. 4. This happened without the consent of the composer, which explains why 'his' Op. 4 is a set of six Trattenimenti for violin and basso continuo. The title page of the Op. 9 refers to sonate da camera č chiesa, which suggests that they are modelled after the sonatas by Corelli. That is not the case. All the sonatas are in three movements, in the order fast - slow - fast. Although these pieces are trio sonatas, the two violins are not always treated on equal footing. A good example is the opening movement of the Sonata No. 6, which comprises three sections: adagio, presto, adagio. The adagio sections are dominated by staccato chords in all three parts, but at several moments the first violin plays a solo, not unlike a cadenza in a solo concerto. The opening movement of the Sonata No. 5 includes a number of episodes, in which the first violin has to play figurations alongside a much quieter second violin.

These six trio sonatas alternate with two Divertimenti for two violins without basso continuo, from a collection with the title Il maestro e discepolo, which was printed as the Op. 2 in Urbino in 1734. It was reprinted in Paris in 1745 and at about the same time in London. As the title indicates, these duets are mainly educational material, to be played by a pupil and his teacher. This is not the only educational part of Tessarini's output: he wrote four treatises on violin playing, which were published between 1741 and around 1765. The duets consist of three movements in the same order as in the trio sonatas, but the last movement has the form of a canon.

The sonatas for violin and basso continuo Op. 14 were written at about the same time as the Sonatas Op. 9. They were dedicated to the ministers who signed the treaty which brought the War of the Austrian Succession to a close; this happened in Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. One year later, the collection came from the press in Paris, without the dedication. It is notable that the sonatas are for violin, but the title page mentions the transverse flute as an alternative. This bears witness to the growing popularity of this instrument, especially among amateurs. Its consequence is that typical features of violin music, such as double stopping, are avoided. And as the flute was mostly played by amateurs, these sonatas are also less technically demanding than other sonatas from Tessarini's pen. They have largely the same structure as the trio sonatas Op. 9. The exception is the Sonata No. 5 in E flat, which comprises four instead of three movements, and are in the conventional order of slow - fast - slow - fast. Considering the time of composition, it does not surprise that they are written in the galant idiom. However, this is certainly not just 'easy listening' stuff. These sonatas are full of energy and quite some variety, as is discussed at length in the liner-notes.

This is underlined by the performers, who explore the different features of the respective sonatas to the full. They take quite some liberties, for instance in the line-up of the basso continuo. To what extent this is historically tenable is hard to say, but as far as I can tell, the performers don't cross any lines. Their decisions are based on how they assess the character of each single sonata. A particular interesting aspect of these performances is the insertion of three so-called partimenti from the pen of Fedele Fenaroli. Partenimento is explained in New Grove as a term "used fairly frequently in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to denote exercises in figured-bass playing, not so much as accompaniments to a solo instrument as self-contained pieces." Recently this genre has received some interest, for instance through a disc by Nicoleta Paraschivescu. Three of the partimenti by Fenaroli are used as a kind of preludes to sonatas by Tessarini. This seems to have been common practice at the time, but is seldom applied today. One could argue that the performers should have selected earlier specimens of this genre, by contemporaries of Tessarini. However, stylistically they fit well into the programme. There should have been less space between the 'preludes' and the opening movements of the respective sonatas.

The inclusion of these partimenti are all part of the creative approach of Valerio Losito and his colleagues. They deliver admirable performances, both technically and musically. I have greatly enjoyed this recording, which also shows the quality of Tessarini's oeuvre. I am looking forward to further recordings of his music.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

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