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Christian Joseph LIDARTI (1730 - 1795): "Violin Concertos"

Francesco D'Orazio, violina
Auser Musici

rec: June 2004
Hyperion - CDA67685 (© 2008) (61'25")

Concerto for violin and orchestra in Ca; Concerto for violin and orchestra in d minora; Concerto for violin and strings in Aa; Quartet for 2 violins, viola and cello in G

[Quartet in G] Raul Orellana, Daniela Godio, violin; Pasquale Lepore, viola; Marco Ceccato, cello

One wouldn't expect someone with the Italian family name of Lidarti to bear the Christian names Christian Joseph. But this can be easily explained: his father, Giovanni Damiano, had emigrated to Austria and lived in Vienna, where Christian Joseph also was born. Whether he was aiming at making a career in music isn't quite clear as he enrolled in philosophy and law at Vienna University. He received lessons at the keyboard and the harp, but as a composer he was self-taught at first. At the instigation of his uncle, Giuseppe Bonno, a pupil of Leonardo Leo, he started to study the theorists. It was also Bonno who in 1751 sent him to Italy to study with the then most fashionable Italian master, Niccolò Jommelli. It was only six years after his arrival in Italy that he was able to do so. In the same year he received his first musical appointment, as musician at the church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri in Pisa. In this city he was to stay for the rest of his life.

It seems that he was held in high esteem, as he had close contacts to 'Padre' Martini, one of the most famous theorists and music historians of his day, and the English journalist Charles Burney, who paid him a visit. A large part of his musical output consists of chamber music, mainly for strings, although he himself also played the transverse flute - he was a sought-after teacher on that instrument -, keyboard instruments and the harp. It has been suggested he was especially skilled at the cello, although his autobiography doesn't mention this. The reason is that in many of his chamber works the cello has a remarkable virtuosic part to play.

That is not the case in the string quartet recorded here. It is part of a manuscript found in New York, which contains six quartets which were published as sinfonias for strings and bass with additional instruments ad libitum in Paris in 1768 as his opus 2. In these quartets the two violins play the leading role, developing a dialogue with the viola and cello reduced to a supporting role. This quartet is a very fine work with nice thematic material, and is an interesting addition to the literature for string quartet. I certainly would like to hear the other quartets of this collection.

The worklist in New Grove doesn't mention any solo concertos, so I am not able to say whether the three violin concertos are Lidarti's only (extant) concertos. But Dinko Fabris's programme notes seem to suggest these are indeed all there is: "We have only a single source for Lidarti's three violin concertos, at the Library of the Paganini Conservatoire in Genoa. Although these concertos have been numbered 1 - 3, there is no evidence that this was the composer's ordering". The Concerto in A is scored for violin and strings only, whereas the other two concertos have additional wind instruments.

The concertos were written in a period in music history in which a 'natural' style was preferred, away from all kinds of exaggerations. It is not far-fetched to compare these concertos with the many violin concertos of Giuseppe Tartini. Tartini's principle that music should be written in "good taste according to nature" is certainly reflected in Lidarti's concertos. While listening to them I regularly was reminded by Tartini's violin concertos. I have listened to these concertos with great satisfaction: the thematic material is always interesting and well worked-out. The 'naturalness' of music doesn't exclude virtuosity as these concertos show (just like Tartini's).

Francesco D'Orazio is totally convincing in these concertos. He seems to feel completely at home in this repertoire and also completely convinced of the quality of these works. His performances are technically brilliant and very stylish. The cadenzas, probably created by Francesco D'Orazio himself, are beautiful and quite virtuosic, but again avoid exaggerations. The soloist and the ensemble excell in expressing the lyricism which is a feature of the slow movements of Lidarti's concertos.

In short, this is a most enjoyable recording of music which deserves the attention of today's interpreters and audiences. In the programme notes a reference is made to Pietro Nardini, a contemporary of Lidarti, who also is unjustly neglected. Both belong to a period in Italian music history which is hardly explored. Hopefully this disc will encourage musicians and ensembles to do something about that. And I certainly wouldn't mind to hear Francesco D'Orazio and Auser Musici in music by, for example, Nardini.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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