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"An Italian Rant! - 18th-century Italian masters in Britain"

L'Avventura London
Dir: Zak Ozmo

rec: Nov 16, 17 & 19, 2010, London, All Saints' Church, East Finchley
Opella Nova - ONCD015 ( 2011) (64'08")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751): Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in d minor, op. 9,2a [3]; Giacobbe Basevi CERVETTO (1690-1783): Sonata in g minor, op. 1,3 [5]; Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713): Sonata for violin and bc in d minor, op. 5,12 'Follia'b [2]; Francesco GEMINIANI (16887-1762): Sonata in D 'Bush aboon Traquair' [6]; Sonata for violin and bc in A, op. 4,10a [4]; Pietro Domenico PARADIES (PARADISI) (1707-1791): Sonata VII in B flatc [7]; trad, arr Zak OZMO: An Italian Rant [1]; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741): Concerto for strings and bc in g minor (RV 156)

Sources: [1] John Playford, ed, Musick's recreation on the viol, lyra-way, 1652; [2] Arcangelo Corelli, Sonate, op. 5, 1700; [3] Tomaso Albinoni, Concerti a cinque, op. 9, 1722; [4] Francesco Geminiani, Sonate, op. 4, 1739; [5] Giacobbe Basevi Cervetto, Six Sonatas or Trios, op. 1, 1741; [6] Francesco Geminiani, A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick, 1749; [7] Pietro Domenico Paradies, Sonate di gravicembalo, 1754

Geoffrey Coates, oboe (solo a); Bojan Cicic (solo b, Ivana Cetkovic, violin; Malgorzata Ziemkiewicz, viola; Natasha Kraemer, cello; Andrew Kerr, violone; Zak Ozmo, archlute; Taro Takeuchi, guitar; David Gordon, harpsichord (solo c)

The invasion of Italian performers and composers in England in the early decades of the 18th century is well documented. Various recordings have been devoted to the music of some of them, such as Geminiani. The subtitle of this disc could give the impression that it is another one of this kind, but that is not quite correct. Only three of the composers who are represented on the programme have actually lived in England: Geminiani, Cervetto and Paradisi. Arcangelo Corelli, Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi have never set foot on English soil, but their music was very popular in the country. According to Michael Talbot the musical climate was characterised by Italomania. Not only music-lovers but also English composers were under the spell of Italian music. Some modelled their compositions after their Italian heroes, like Charles Avison who considered Geminiani the summum of good taste. The fact that he dared to rate him higher than Handel caused a storm in the musical world.

Geminiani was one of the most respected among the Italian immigrants. He played before the King accompanied by Handel at the harpsichord. He was also a theorist: in 1749 he published A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick. One of the pieces included in this book is the Sonata in D 'Bush aboon Traquair', one of the Scottish tunes which were very popular in England at the time. The Ensemble Il Falcone included various other specimens in their recording Play me my songs. Geminiani presented himself as a pupil of Corelli, but that is not established. He clearly admired him, as is reflected by his arrangements of Corelli's Sonatas op. 5 as concerti grossi. That was a good move as Corelli's music belonged to the most frequently played by, for instance, music societies of largely amateurs. That justifies the inclusion of the last piece of the op. 5 set, the variations on Follia.

Tomaso Albinoni also belonged to the favourite composers of the English music lovers. Stylistically his music isn't that different from Corelli's, and is more restrained and aristocratic than particularly Vivaldi's compositions. The latter was certainly the most controversial of all Italian composers. Some defended his works vehemently, others sharply criticized them. The reasons were in particular the virtuosity of his solo parts - considered extravagant by his critics - as well as the relative subordination of counterpoint. That is not the case in the Concerto in g minor (RV 156) for strings and bc in which all the parts are treated on equal footing. Albinoni's Concerto in d minor is today one of his most famous pieces; the adagio offers the soloist plenty opportunities to show his skills in ornamentation.

An interesting figure is Giacobbe Basevi Cervetto who was from a respected Jewish family in Verona. Around 1738 he settled in London where he became a leading player of the cello. The Sonata in g minor, op. 1,3 is from a set for two cellos and bass. Interestingly he indicated that the cello parts could be played one octave higher on violins. This bears witness to the fact that the cello was a relatively new instrument in England. Not that many amateurs - the main purchasers of such publications - would have been able to play the cello, as the viola da gamba was still the main bass string instrument.

Italian keyboard music also found wide appreciation in England. London was the only place where sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti were printed. Domenico Paradisi (or Paradies) was from Naples and settled in London in 1746. In 1754 he published his Sonate di gravicembalo which were reprinted a number of times between 1765 and 1790. The influence of Scarlatti's sonatas is evident, but generally they are in a more galant idiom.

The last piece of the programme indicates that the love for Italian music dated from the 17th century. John Playford published a popular Italian song known as Barbarano, Fuggi, fuggi, Ballo di Mantova or La Mantovana under the title An Italian Rant which gave this disc its title.

I didn't know L'Avventura London; this introduction has been a most pleasant one. The playing is technically immaculate and full of zest. The Vivaldi concerto is an indication of what is to come: the two fast movements are rhythmically and dynamically perfectly executed, the slow movement is full of expression. Corelli's La Follia is given a sparkling performance, without any exaggerated effects. Geoffrey Coates plays some nice ornaments in Albinoni's concerto. Cervetto's sonata is a beautiful piece which raises the curiosity about other parts of his oeuvre. In particular cellists should further explore this.

In short, a strongly recommendable release.

Johan van Veen ( 2012)

Relevant links:

L'Avventura London

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