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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Suonata á Solo facto per Monsieur Pisendel del Vivaldi"

Baltic Baroque

rec: 2011, Tallinn, [St Michael's Church]a; 2012, Viimsi (Estonia), [St Jacob's Church]bcd
Estonian Record Productions - ERP6312 [2012] (62'52")
Liner-notes: E/Est/R
Cover & track-list

Sonata in C (RV 2)c; Sonata in c minor (RV 6)a; Sonata in F (RV 19)c; Sonata in G (RV 25)b; Sonata in A (RV 29)d

Nazar Kozhukhara, Maria Krestinskayab, Andrei Reshetinc, Evgeny Sviridovd, violin; Sofia Maltizova, cello; Imbi Tarum, harpsichord

The court chapel in Dresden was one of the best of its kind in the first half of the 18th century. It had virtuosos from various regions in Europe in its ranks: Germans, French and Italians. Although life at court was strongly influenced by French culture, musical taste was unequivocally Italian. Instrumental and vocal music, sacred music and opera - it was Italian music which was most admired. Therefore it doesn't surprise that when one of its virtuosos, Johann Georg Pisendel, accompanied his employer's son, Prince-Elector Friedrich Augustus II, to Venice as part of the latter's Grand Tour, he took the opportunity to contact some of the most prominent violin virtuosos, especially Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi.

Both composers gave him some of their sonatas, probably composed earlier, but at this occasion dedicated to Pisendel. The sonatas by both Albinoni and Vivaldi are virtuosic in character, which means that they must have held their visitor in high regard and recognized his great technical skills. After his return Pisendel became one of the strongest advocates of Vivaldi's music, and Italian music in general. Thanks to him the archive of the Dresden court chapel includes a considerable number of compositions by Vivaldi. Its discovery played a decisive role in the re-emergence of his music in modern times.

Vivaldi dedicated six violin concertos and five sonatas for violin and basso continuo to Pisendel. It is notable that the basso continuo parts in the sonatas omit any figures. "This indicates Vivaldi's total trust in the professionalism of his German colleagues who did not need him prompting the harmony", Anna Bulycheva writes in her liner-notes. Equally notable is that only a couple of movements carry an indication of tempo or character. We probably could attribute that to the same factor Ms Bulycheva just mentioned. It is clear that composers made a distinction between music which was printed and was probably purchased by more average performers or even amateurs and the music which they composed for their own use or were to be played by colleagues who were their equals. The same can be noted in regard to Vivaldi's unpublished violin concertos which are considerably more complicated than those which found their way in the various opuses which were printed.

The 'private' character of these sonatas could also explain that Vivaldi treats the form of the sonata rather freely. Whereas printed sonatas mostly followed the texture of either the sonata da chiesa or the sonata da camera, Vivaldi here feels free to follow his own path. Two of the sonatas are in four movements, two are in five and one has seven movements. Only recently I reviewed a recording of these sonatas by Annette Unger, Michael Pfaender and Ludger Rémy, and there are some notable differences in the texture of the sonatas. Here the Sonata in C (RV 2) has five movements, Ms Unger plays only four. Baltic Baroque's performance of the Sonata in G (RV 25) also includes a movement which doesn't appear on Ms Unger's disc. It is marked as a world premiere recording, but the liner-notes don't explain where this movement comes from.

Obviously, the fact that so much has been left to the performers results in sometimes strikingly different interpretations. A good example is the opening movement from the Sonata in A (RV 29) which Ms Unger interprets as a pastorale; she appropriately plays it in a very moderate tempo. Evgeny Sviridov takes a much higher tempo; the juxtaposition of passages in forte and in piano is a very nice move.

Because of the freedom the performers enjoy it doesn't make that much sense to compare these two recordings. Moreover, Baltic Baroque has divided the five sonatas over four different players. In general I have very much enjoyed these interpretations. In particular Maria Krestinskaya, Nazar Kozhukhar and Evegeny Sviridov deliver high-spirited performances; in the case of Ms Krestinskaya that leads to a sometimes less polished sound, with some sharp edges which are just short of scratchiness. The performers make a clear distinction between good and bad notes through dynamic shading. Sometimes that can be a bit stereotypical, for instance in the second movement from the Sonata in F (RV 19), played by Andrei Reshetin. He is a seasoned performer - he has been a long-standing member of Musica Petropolitana - and is probably a bit more moderate in his approach to this repertoire.

Having heard both recordings I don't want to choose. I am more than happy to have them both, and there are so many differences that it is well worth investigating this version by Baltic Baroque even if you have purchased Ms Unger's recording.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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