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Tomaso ALBINONI (1671 - 1751): "Sonates pour violon"

Guillaume Rebinguet-Sudre, violin; Claire Gratton, cello; Jean-Luc Ho, harpsichord

rec: Nov 7 - 10, 2011, Lévis-Saint-Nom (Yvelines), Église Saint-Nom-et-Notre-Dame
Encelade - ECL 1102 (© 2012) (54'03")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover & track-list
Scores Op. 6

Sonata in g minor, op. 6,2 [1]; Sonata in a minor, op. 6,6 [1]; Sonata in c minor, op. 6,10 [1]; Sonata IV in A [2]; Sonata 'per il Signore Pisendel' in B flat (T.So 32)

[1] Tomaso Albinoni, Trattenimenti armonici per camera, op. 6, c1712; [2] Jeanne Roger, ed, Sonate ... e uno suario o capriccio ... del Sig. Tibaldi, c1717

"In the past, the undemonstrative nature of Albinoni's musical personality has puzzled some commentators. (...) Today, the subtle elegance and lack of exaggeration in Albinoni's music comes across, rather, as a positive feature essential to his musical personality". Thus Michael Talbot, in his liner-notes to this recording of five sonatas for violin and basso continuo.

It is tempting to speculate about the reasons why Albinoni didn't indulge himself in violinistic acrobatics. Could it have something to do with the fact that he wasn't a professional composer and never held an official position at some court or institution, such as one of the ospedali in his hometown Venice? Didn't he feel free to show off? Elsewhere Talbot calls him a somewhat 'marginal' figure in society who was not from a musical family and wasn't considered as "one of us" by the truly rich and famous. Another explanation could be his involvement in opera: he composed around 80 operas and a considerable number of cantatas. He was not only educated as a violinist but also as a singer. That could well explain the lyricism which is often present in his chamber music, and especially in the slow movements.

Make no mistake. Albinoni's music isn't middle-of-the-road. The present disc includes a quite virtuosic sonata which bears the title "composta per il Signore Pisendel". Johann Georg Pisendel was a German violinist who was to become concertmaster of the court chapel in Dresden in 1728. In 1712 he had entered the chapel as violinist, and in 1716 accompanied his employer's son, Prince-Elector Friedrich Augustus II, to Venice as part of the latter's Grand Tour. Here he became acquainted with the most prominent composers, such as Vivaldi and Albinoni. Pisendel returned to Dresden with a large collection of compositions. Some of them he had purchased, others were given to him. Among the latter are three sonatas by Albinoni from which the Sonata in B flat has been selected. Without any doubt it reflects Albinoni's assessment of Pisendel's skills, but also gives some idea about Albinoni's own capabilities as a player. This sonata was never published; he must have written it for his own use in the first place. The second movement is a fugue which contains much double stopping. In the third movement the cello has a notable role. The use of double stopping and the inclusion of fugues in his sonatas bear witness to Albinoni's mastery of counterpoint, one of the features for which he was famous. This aspect must have contributed to his fame across Europe, where he was often mentioned in the same breath as Corelli.

The well-balanced character of Albinoni's sonatas is not at the expense of expression or even passion. That is demonstrated in the sonatas on this disc. A good example of passion is the second movement from the Sonata in g minor, op. 6,2. It is followed by a beautiful largo which is based on a basso ostinato, and closes with a brilliant allegro. An expressive movement is for instance the opening grave adagio from the Sonata in a minor, op. 6,6. The second movement has much drive, the following adagio has a cantabile character, and the sonata closes with a balanced allegro. There are some dramatic traits as well, for instance in the closing allegro from the Sonata in c minor, op. 6,10.

The Sonata IV in A is from a collection of five sonatas, the last of which is by Giovanni Battista Tibaldi, a composer from Modena. This set was printed without Albinoni's approval by Jeanne Roger in Amsterdam in 1717. The sonata opens with a movement of improvisatory character which is followed by an allegro which is another fugue with much double stopping.

These three artists are probably not that well-known: this is Guillaume Rebinguet-Sudre's first solo recording. It is a most convincing and impressive debut. His violin was especially built for him by Christian Rault after instruments from the Venetian school. It produces a beautiful tone which is well suited for Albinoni's music. Rebinguet-Sudre has perfectly captured its character, without underrating the expressive and virtuosic aspects. The dynamic shading and his bow vibrato on long notes and the accentuation of good notes are instrumental in securing a compelling interpretation. Also notable is the exposition of the rhythmic pulse which is especially important as many movements are dances in disguise. I should not forget to mention Claire Gratton and Jean-Luc Ho who considerably contribute to performances which are full of tension and contrast. The latter aspect is also due to the well-chosen tempi.

All in all, this disc is a compelling musical portrait of a great composer.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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