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"The Di Martinelli Manuscript - Violin sonatas of the late 17th century"

Eva Saladin, violin; Daniel Rosin, celloa; Johannes Kellerb, Sebastian Wienandc, harpsichord

rec: Sept 19 - 22, 2020, St. Pantaleon (CH), Katholische Kirche
Glossa - GCD 922521 (© 2021) (69'07")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet
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Giovanni Henrico ALBICASTRO (Johann Heinrich VON WEISSENBURG) (c1660-c1730): Sonata in d minor [21]bc; Gian Carlo CAIL“ (1659-1722): Sonata in A [3]bc; Pietro Paolo CAPPELLINI (?-?): Sonata in B [24]bc; N GOOR (?-?): Sonata in F [10]b; Carlo Ambrogio LONATI (1645-1710/15): Sonata in g minor [8]b; David PETERSEN (c1651-1737): Sonata IV in D [1]bcd; Johann Christoph PEZ (1664-1716): Sonata in g minor [30]bcd; Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (1620/23-1680) (attr): Sonata in b minor [20]bc

Performers of instrumental music of the baroque era can turn to several sources for a selection of pieces to play: printed editions, handwritten copies and, if they are lucky, autographs. Apart from copies of entire opuses, which circulated across Europe, there are also some collections of copies which bear the personal stamp of their respective owners. From the 16th century we know several songbooks: collections of songs that the owner - someone from the higher echelons of society, often an aristocrat - liked to sing himself or being sung by someone in his household. The disc under review here also focusses on a personal collection, in this case comprising sonatas for violin and basso continuo.

The name is derived from the original owner, a member of the Di Martinelli family. They were from Genoa; Carolo di Martinelli (c1635-after 1682) came to the Netherlands, and worked as a singer and impresario, first in Ghent, and then in The Hague. In around 1695 his son Guillelmus settled in Diest (Brabant, today Belgium), where he worked as a singing master and violinist. It is assumed that the collection was largely the result of his efforts, which makes sense, given that he was a violinist. He must have been a skilled performer, because many of the sonatas in the collection are technically demanding.

It comprises 65 manuscripts and 32 prints, among them 32 violin sonatas by composers of the 17th century. They represent different regions in Europe: Italy, the German-speaking lands (especially parts of the Habsburg empire) and the Low Countries. Some of the copies are known from other sources, especially printed editions. Thomas Drescher, in his liner-notes, argues that printed editions were rather expensive, and therefore copying them by hand made much sense. An example is the Sonata in D, which is the first in the collection, and is part of a set of twelve sonatas by David Petersen. In other cases, the Di Martinelli Manuscript is the only known source.

Such a case is the Sonata in g minor by Johann Christoph Pez, which opens the programme. He worked for most of his life in Munich, but spent the last stage of his career in Stuttgart. Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria was also governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and here lies a connection with the region where Guillelmus di Martinelli lived. The sonata consists of six movements, the fourth of which is a ciacona. As all the pieces in the programme, this work includes episodes with double stopping. The Habsburg empire is represented by the Sonata in b minor, which does not mention the name of the composer. However, in the collection it follows a piece which is by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, and given the similarity in style, it is reasonable to assume that this is a piece by the same composer. The fact that it requires scordatura, the retuning of the violin (here b, f#', b', d"), points in the same direction. Whether it was Johann Heinrich or his son Andreas Anton is impossible to establish. The sonata is in fact a suite: it comprises five dances, which are followed by a movement with the title 'L'…cho' and an embellished cadence with the title 'La Fin'.

Other pieces that are only known from this collection are the sonatas by Gian Carlo CailÚ and Carlo Ambrogio Lonati. CailÚ was a respected violinist, born in Rome, who worked as a performing musician and teacher in Naples. According to Drescher, the Sonata in A is the only known work from his pen. However, New Grove mentions two pieces. The work is dominated by partly imitative counterpoint and includes passages with multiple stopping. This piece is one of the technically demanding items in the collection. Lonati was one of the great virtuosos of his time, who worked in various places, among them Rome, Naples and Mantua. In 1701 he published a set ot twelve violin sonatas. According to New Grove, seven sonatas for violin and basso continuo have been preserved in manuscript. The Di Martinelli Manuscript includes five of them. The Sonata in g minor consists of nine movements, among them one with the title of tremolo. Notable is the closing movement, which is a gigue, which is a fast dance, but has here the addition largo. The third Italian composer in this programme is Pietro Paolo Cappellini. Hardly anything is known about him, but his extant vocal works suggest that he worked in Rome in the mid-17th century. The Sonata in B is the only known instrumental piece from his pen, and comprises five movements.

Another more or less unknown quantity is Henrico Albicastro (the Latin-Italian translation of his original name: Johann Heinrich von Weissenburg). Johann Gottfried Walther, in his Musicalisches Lexicon, claimed that he was from Switzerland, but that is almost certainly not true. According to Drescher, he was probably from Central Franconia. He is often labelled a Dutch composer, as around 1686 he settled in Leiden. Only a few parts of his oeuvre are available on disc; it comprises music for strings and one motet. The Sonata in d minor is a work which undoubtedly reflects Albicastro's own skills at the violin; it includes passages with double and triple stopping. Even lesser known than Albicastro is a composer with the name of Goor; his Christian name is unknown. The name suggests that he was from Flanders. He must have been a skilled violinist, as in his sonata he includes passages with double stopping and requires scordatura (here: c', f', a', d"). David Petersen was of German origin; from the late 1670s he lived in Amsterdam. He was not a professional musician, but a merchant. Rudolf Rasch, in his article on Petersen in New Grove, suggests a connection with Johann Jacob Walther, the German violin virtuoso, given the stylistic similarity between the two. The Sonata in D is identical with the Sonata IV in Petersen's only printed edition of instrumental music. It includes multiple stopping and dynamic indications.

A disc like the one reviewed here is of great importance. Not only does the Di Martinelli Manuscript include pieces of high quality, but it also documents the stylistic variety within a relatively limited time span across Europe as well as the influences between regions and composers. That diversity is reflected in the performances, in which Eva Saladin adds ornamentation according to the style in which the various sonatas are written. She is a brilliant violinist of the younger generation, whom I heard in the Festival Early Music Utrecht in 2019 and 2021, where she made a lasting impression. She does that here as well. This disc is an excellent demonstration of her skills, both technically and with regard to interpretation. Her colleagues are her excellent partners in this exciting journey. Interesting is the use of two harpsichords for the basso continuo in some sonatas. "This practice is well documented in opera, so it would seem appropriate to employ it in chamber music too", Drescher writes. The logic escapes me, but musically it works rather well.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

Relevant links:

Eva Saladin
Johannes Keller
Daniel Rosin
Sebastian Wienand


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