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Luigi TOMASINI (1741 - 1808): "Five Baryton Trios"

Esterházy Ensemble

rec: March 31 - April 3, 2003, Stuttgart, SWR (Chamber music studio)
CPO - 999 942-2 (© 2004) (56'18")

Trio for baryton, viola and cello in C (Korcak 19); Trio for baryton, viola and cello in D (Korcak 20); Trio for baryton, violin and cello in e minor (Korcak 34); Trio for baryton, violin and cello in G (Korcak 27); Trio for baryton, violin and cello in A (Korcak 33)

Kerstin Linder-Dewan, violin; András Bolyki, viola; Mária Andrásfalvy-Brüssing, cello; Michael Brüssing, baryton

Prince Nicholas Esterházy, the employer of Joseph Haydn, was a passionate music lover and played several instruments, among them the cello, the viola da gamba and the baryton, which was his favourite instrument.
Characteristic of the baryton are the parallel 6 to 7 gut strings, which are bowed, and up to 20, though usually 9 or 10 metal resonance strings running underneath the fingerboard. The neck, open to the rear, also allowed the strings to be plucked. The tuning of the fretted strings was similar to those of the viola da gamba. The baryton was almost exclusively played in Austria and South Germany between the middle of the 17th and the end of the 18th century.

It was mainly Haydn who carried the burden of composing new music for this instrument, as the Prince's demand for such music was inexhaustible. But in Luigi Tomasini he found a colleague, who could share this burden. Tomasini, born in Pesaro in Italy, was first violinist in the chapel of Esterházy, when Haydn was appointed assistant Kapellmeister in 1761. Later on he became Konzertmeister, a post he held until his death in 1808. To Haydn he was more than a colleague. They were close friends, and several times Haydn made efforts to improve Tomasini's financial situation and called him "my brother" in his letters. At several occasions Tomasini gave performances of Haydn's string quartets. Haydn once wrote that nobody played his quartets as rewardingly as Tomasini.

Tomasini was also active as a composer. Among his works are string quartets and trios, a couple of violin concertos and some symphonies. He also wrote 24 divertimentos with baryton. Whereas Haydn's trios are scored for baryton, viola and cello, Tomasini preferred the violin instead of the viola: two thirds are with violin.

The fact that these trios belong to the genre of the divertimento doesn't mean they are all light-hearted. Some movements show close affinity with the Sturm-und-Drang style, for example the Trio in e minor. Elsewhere we find the influence of the Empfindsamkeit, like in the Trio in G and in some adagios of other trios. The most divertimento-like are the Trio in C and the Trio in A, which contain three fast movements.

As the baryton is hardly ever recorded and even less frequently played in public, this disc offers a rare opportunity to hear the instrument. It is also good to be introduced to Tomasini as a composer, someone we only knew from the history books as a brilliant violinist and personal friend of Haydn. In addition, the Esterházy Ensemble is giving excellent performances here, entertaining where it fits, and exploring the depths these trios also contain. This is a disc for adventurous music lovers to whom I recommend it without reservation.

Johan van Veen (© 2004)

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