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Carbonelli & Madonis: Violin sonatas

[I] Giovanni Stefano CARBONELLI (1694 - 1773): "Sonate da Camera Nos. 7 - 12"
The Illyria Consort
rec: Jan 3 - 5, 2019, East Woodhay, Newbury, St Martin's Church
Delphian Records - DCD34214 ( 2019) (78'18")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giovanni Stefano CARBONELLI: Sonata No. 7 in a minor; Sonata No. 8 in G; Sonata No. 9 in e minor; Sonata No. 10 in g minor; Sonata No. 11 in A; Sonata No. 12 in b minor; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741): Concerto for violin, strings and bc in B flat 'Il Carbonelli' (RV 366)a

Bojan Cicic, violin; Susanne Heinrich, viola da gamba; David Miller, theorbo, archlute, guitar; Steven Devine, harpsichord, organ
Persephone Gibbs, Liz McCarthy, violina; Jane Rogers, violaa; Joseph Crouch, celloa; Judith Evans, double bassa

[II] Luigi Ludovico MADONIS (1695 - 1777): "Violin Sonatas"
Maria Krestinskaya, violin; Pavel Serbin, cello; Imbi Tarum, harpsichord
rec: July 4 - 7, 2019, Tallin, Hall-Viimsi ([St John's Church])
Pan Classics - PC 10397 ( 2020) (80'55")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Sonata No. 1 in D; Sonata No. 2 in a minor; Sonata No. 4 in e minor; Sonata No. 5 in d minor; Sonata No. 7 in E flat; Sonata No. 8 in B flat

During the first half of the 18th century many Italian performers and/or composers moved north, to look for employment or to find a profitable market for their compositions. One of the places to be was London, as England, due to the publication and dissemination of the compositions of Arcangelo Corelli, had fallen victim to a true Corellimania, and in the wake of that a great appreciation of the Italian style. Many composers took advantage of that, such as Francesco Geminiani, Giuseppe Sammartini and Pietro Castrucci, to mention just a few. One of the lesser-known was Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli.

It is rather odd that he has no entry in New Grove, given that he was certainly not a minor figure in the London music scene. It seems that in 1719 he became the leader of the orchestra of the Drury Lane Theatre, a position he held until 1728, when he turned to the status of a freelance musician. In 1729 he published a set of sonatas for violin and basso continuo, which he dedicated to John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland, who was his patron. It is his only extant music, which can largely be explained by the fact that in the 1730s he changed his main profession to that of a wine merchant. He was very successful in that department, and as a result gained in social status and in income.

Little is known about his career before his arrival in England. However, the present disc includes two indications that he must have been in Venice and stood in contact with Antonio Vivaldi. The programme opens with one of the latter's violin concertos, which has the addition Concerto detto il Carbonelli in a set of parts copied by Johann Georg Pisendel. This indicates that Carbomelli was the soloist in this work in a performance that took place during Pisendel's stay in Venice in 1716/17. A second clue can be found in the Sonata No. 11, whose two allegros include passages in which the violin has to move into its highest register (up to A in altissimo), and also reminiscences of two Vivaldi concertos that were very popular in England at the time (RV 335 and 519).

The sonatas 7 to 10 comprise four movements, the Sonata No. 11 has five, and the Sonata No. 12 only three. However, the last sonata is also the longest, due to the last movement which is an aria with six variations. As was often the case in collections of violin sonatas - Corelli's Op. 5 is a good example - the last sonata is the most brilliant one, in which the composer - mostly a violinist himself - demonstrates his virtuosity and offers the interpreter the opportunity to show off. Here the variations increase in brilliance, with the last entirely consisting of three or four notes in the violin part which have to be arpeggiated. This variation closes with a shortened version of the aria. The high positions in the Sonata No. 11 are not the only tokens of Carbonelli's skills as a player of the violin. He also regularly includes episodes with double or triple stopping.

The Sonata No. 8 opens with a movement in an ABA structure; the A section has a pastoral character. The opening movement of the Sonata No. 9 is notable for the juxtaposition of two themes, the one diatonic and the other chromatic, in the violin and the bass respectively. Later their positions are reversed. Michael Talbot, in his liner-notes, points out that Carbonelli clearly pays tribute to his new homeland by including several gigas and a siciliano, two dance forms that were particularly popular in England.

A few years ago I reviewed Bojan Cicic's recording of the first six sonatas from this set, and I expressed the hope that the remaining sonatas would follow. That has happened with the present disc, and I am just as impressed by Carbonelli's music and by the performances by Cicic and his colleagues as I was then. Cicic not only delivers technically immaculate performances, he also fully explores the stylistic features of these sonatas. I have been reading the scores while listening, and I noted how creative he treats the material. He is quite generous in his ornamentation, often filling in the space between notes or embellishing longer notes. He also sets clear dynamic accents and emphasizes the contrasts between and within moveements. The basso continuo group makes these performances even more exciting. Those who have the first disc should hurry to add this one to their collection.

In the course of the first half of the century, Russia was also opening to the West, and gradually influences of Western music, and in particular the Italian style, made themselves felt there, and in particular in St Petersburg. During the 18th century a number of composers worked for some time in Russia, where especially Italian opera was greatly appreciated. One of the earliest immigrants was Luigi Ludovico Madonis. He was born in Venice into a family of musicians. He was educated as a violist, and at the age of 15 he already applied to the orchestra of St Mark's, but was not accepted. He joined the orchestra of the San Angelo Theatre, and in this capacity he participated in 1717 in the performance of the opera L'incoronazione di Dario by his teacher Vivaldi. In 1725 he became concertmaster of an Italian opera troupe, and with this ensemble he performed in places like Breslau, Paris and Brussels. In 1729 and 1730 he also played at the Concert Spirituel in Paris. He stayed for some years there, in the service of the Venetian ambassador to France. In 1731 he published a set of violin sonatas in Paris.

After his return to Venice, he was invited to Russia to become a member of the court orchestra of Empress Anna Ioannovna. In 1738 he published a set of twelve symphonies for violin and basso continuo, which he dedicated to the empress. After her death in 1740 he entered the service of Elizaveta Petrovna, who was crowned empress in 1742. Part of the festivities during the coronation was the performance of Hasse's opera La clemenza di Tito, to which Madonis and his colleague Domenico dall'Oglio contributed music of their own pen. Madonis's employment ended in 1762, due to a mental disorder. He was granted a pension and stayed in St Petersburg until his death in 1777.

The twelve symphonies Madonis published in St Petersburg are the subject of the disc by Maria Krestinskaya, who has made a selection of six sonatas. They consist of four or five movements, usually in binary form, and give us insight into the technical virtuosity of their composer. Madonis makes frequent use of multiple stopping, often double stopping, but there are also passages with three parts. There are also many indications of trills and runs in fast tempo and with a wide tessitura. The Sonata No. 1 opens with an adagio which turns into a capriccio with the indication presto. The next movement is dominated by staccato, and this is followed by a sarabanda. The last movement is a moderato, which has a pastoral character. In the Sonata No. 2, the allegro non presto is an example of a movement with triple stopping. It includes quite some chromaticism. The ensuing third movement has the character of a recitative with the indication adagio. According to Maria Krestinskaya, in her liner-notes, the opening movement of the Sonata No. 4 shows the traces of Russian music. The Sonata No. 5 is the only one with a fugue; here it is the second movement. The Sonata No. 7 opens with an andante, in which the bass largely consists of repeated note patterns, very much in the manner of drum basses which would become so popular in keyboard music of the mid-18th century. The same goes for the next two movements. The sonata ends with a menuet with four variations. It is notable that in the score the variations omit a bass; this means that the basso continuo remains the same as that of the menuet. In this performance the menuet is repeated after the last variation. The Sonata No. 8 ends with a rondeau; it is played twice, and in between we get an affettuoso.

Madonis is an almost completely unknown quantity, and a fragment of the above-mentioned opera by Hasse, to which he contributed, seems the only trace of his compositional activities that has made it to disc. From that perspective, the importance of the present disc cannot be overrated. Moreover, these six sonatas make abundantly clear that he was an excellent and original composer. He may have been Vivaldi's pupil, but he did not slavishly follow in his teacher's footsteps. Every sonata has something interesting to offer. Maria Krestinskaya, whom I know from previous recordings with Baltic Baroque, is a brilliant violinist with an impressive technique, but also a fine feeling for the style of Madonis and his time. She delivers engaging and compelling performances, and is the ideal promoter of Madonis's sonatas. I very much hope that the remaining sonatas of this collection are also going to be recorded. And what about the 'Paris' sonatas? In Pavel Serbin and Imbi Tarum Krestinskaya has found the ideal partners, who act like driving forces and substantially contribute to these performance's making a lasting impression.

Johan van Veen ( 2021)

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