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Giuseppe TARTINI (1692 - 1770): "Violin Concertos D80, 96 & 125, Violin Sonata 'Devill's Trill'"

Giulio Plotino, violin; Francesco Galligioni, cellob; Roberto Loreggian, harpsichordb
L'Accademia della Rosaa

rec: Dec 27 - 29, 2017, Villorba (TV), Auditorium Mario del monaco
Brilliant Classics - 96123 ( 2021) (56'42")
Liner-notes: E
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Concerto for violin, strings and bc in G (D 80)a; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A (D 96)a; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A (D 96) (largo andante) (alternative movement)a; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in b minor (D 125)a; Sonata for violin and bc in g minor 'Il trillo del diavolo' (Brainard g5)b

Giuseppe Tartini was generally considered the greatest violinist of his time. In that respect he was the successor to Antonio Vivaldi. Both were virtuosos on their violin, but stylistically they were very different. Tartini was highly critical of Vivaldi, as he thought that he focussed to much on virtuosity for its own sake. Tartini was a representative of the new aesthetics which developed in the mid-18th century and which aimed at a greater naturalness in music. In this respect one could consider him the counterpart of Christoph Willibald Gluck, who followed the same ideal in opera. It was also the time that counterpoint made way for melody as the foundation of music, a principle which was laid down, for instance, by Johann Mattheson. One does not find much counterpoint in Tartini's oeuvre, and that includes the violin concertos.

Tartini's oeuvre comprises almost exclusively music for his own instrument. He composed about 200 sonatas for violin and basso continuo and 127 solo concertos. The concertos all have the same structure: they consist of three movements in the order fast - slow - fast. Tartini may have been very critical of the pyrotechnics in Vivaldi's concertos, but that does not mean that he avoids virtuosity - far from it. Having heard Francesco Maria Veracini play, he was so embarrassed that he withdrew from any public performance and worked very hard to improve his technique. The main issue was that he missed real emotion, and that is what he was aiming at in his own music. When he started composing, he often read literature for inspiration. In many movements one finds literary quotations, and that goes especially for the slow movements, which are the heart of his concertos. For today's scholars and interpreters these quotations are often impossible to identify. However, Tartini did not want to illustrate them in his music. From that angle it does not really matter what they are about or where they come from.

There are exceptions, though. One of them is the slow movement of the Concerto in b minor included on the present disc. Its motto is "Lascia c'hio dica addio" - "Let me say farewell". In this case we have to do with a setting of the text, as the words are written beneath the notes. The Concerto in A has survived with two different slow movements. It probably dates from Tartini's middle period (1735-1750), and is played here in its original form, with an adagio as its middle movement. At the end of the manuscript a movement with the tempo indication largo andante is added, and here we find another quotation: "A rivi, a fonti, a fiumi correte, amare lagrime, sin tanto che consumi lacerbo mio dolor" - "To brooks, to springs, to rivers, hasten, bitter tears, until my sharp grief is consumed". This movement was clearly written at a later time and intended to replace the adagio. It is played here after the entire concerto in its first version.

The Concerto in G has also been preserved with two different slow movements in a manuscript from Padua. The first is a rather old-fashioned grave, whereas here we hear a more up-to-date andante, which was intended as a replacement of the grave. Given the rather modest playing time of this disc, it is regrettable that the grave has been omitted.

One could also argue that it would have been preferable to hear at least one further concerto. Instead we get one of Tartini's best-known pieces, a sonata known as Il trillo del Diavolo ('The Devil's Trill'). It was already part the repertoire of violinists long before the rising of the interest in early music. It is this sonata, with the mythology around its origin, which has brought Tartini the reputation of being a rather bizarre character. Listening to this sonata I don't quite understand where the fascination comes from. The title is mainly connected to the last movement, but in my opinion the first movement is much more interesting, and is much closer to Tartini the poetic composer as we have come to know him. It is a wonderful expressive movement with the character indication largo affettuoso. Unfortunatelty the second word is omitted in the track-list.

I had never heard of Giulio Plotino, which is probably not surprising as he is mainly active as a player of the modern violin in later repertoire. I was pleasantly surprised by his performances here, which show that he knows his way in baroque repertoire and masters the baroque violin just as well as its modern counterpart. He is fully convincing in the fast movements, adding some nice cadenzas, but also gives full weight to the emotional features of these concertos, especially in the slow movements, which he plays wonderfully well.

For those who are not acquainted with Tartini, this disc - at budget price to boot - may well serve as the ideal introduction to his art.

Johan van Veen ( 2021)

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Giulio Plotino


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