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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "The Pisendel Sonatas"

Annette Unger, violin; Michael Pfaender, cello; Ludger Rémy, harpsichord

rec: August 22 - 24, 2011, Berlin, Jesus-Christus-Kirche
Genuin - GEN 12248 (© 2012) (63'25")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

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

Today Vivaldi is one of the most popular composers of the baroque era. The interest in his music dates from the mid-19th century when musicologists and performing musicians became involved in the research of the music of bygone eras. Dresden played a decisive role in the rediscovery of Vivaldi's music. A cabinet in the Catholic Court Chapel in Dresden, bearing the number "II", was opened and turned out to be the then largest collection of Vivaldi's music in the world. Numerous violin concertos by the Venetian master were storaged, which bears witness to the popularity of his music in Dresden.

The man who played a key role in the promotion of his music was Johann Georg Pisendel, a brilliant 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 he 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 Tomaso Albinoni and Vivaldi. With the latter he developed a kind of teacher - pupil relationship. Pisendel returned to Dresden with a large collection of compositions. Some of them he had purchased, others were given to him. To the latter category belong six violin concertos and the five violin sonatas recorded here.

In his sonatas Vivaldi mostly follows the model of the Corellian sonata da chiesa, with its four movements. He does so too in three of these five sonatas. They comprise a sequence of two slow movements, each of which is followed by a fast movement. Very few movements have a tempo indication. In the case of the Sonata in A (RV 29), for instance, the last movement is called 'presto'; the others have no indication. The other two sonatas differ from this structure. The Sonata in F (RV 19) which opens this disc has five movements; only the first has a tempo indication: andante. The last movement is the longest and has the form of a theme with variations. Quite unconventional is the Sonata in G (RV 25) which is in six movements. The first is an allegro; the others have no indication, but are interpreted here as fast movements. As I don't have any other recording I can't check whether this is the only option; at least I have not the feeling that some tempi are too fast.

It is not known whether these sonatas were especially written for Pisendel or whether Vivaldi wrote them for his own performances. Anyway, they are quite virtuosic which either reflect Vivaldi's own skills or are an indication of Vivaldi's assessment of Pisendel's capabilities. Several movements have passages with double stopping, like the second movement from the Sonata in A (RV 29) and the Sonata in c minor (RV 6). It is even the dominating feature of the last movement from the Sonata in C (RV 2). The first movement of the Sonata RV 29 is a pastorale, the last movement begins with an episode in which the basso continuo plays a drone, which returns several times.

Annette Unger delivers outstanding performances of the violin parts. She is a true virtuoso who has no problems with the fast movements, and there is plenty of expression in the slower movements. The dramatic traits come off well, and that is also due to the support of the basso continuo. The only reservation regards the vibrato in the violin; it isn't very obtrusive, but probably applied a bit too frequently.

Unfortunately the track-list is incorrect: every sonata has been given the wrong RV number. I have corrected them in the header. The correct order of the sonatas on the disc is this: RV 19 in F; RV 2 in C; RV 29 in A; RV 25 in G; RV 6 in c minor.

I don't know whether these five sonatas have all been recorded before. Even so, it is nice to have them together on one disc. It gives us a pretty good idea of the brilliance of both the composer and the recipient.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Annette Unger
Michael Pfaender
Ludger Rémy

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