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Domenico DALL'OGLIO (c1700 - 1764): "Violin Sonatas"

Maria Krestinskaya, violin; Grigory Krotenko, bassetto; Imbi Tarum, harpsichord, organ

rec: May 2 - 4, 2017, St Florian (A), Sommerrefektorium St. Florian
Pan Classics - PC 10378 (© 2017) (63'14")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Sonata No. 1 in C; Sonata No. 4 in g minor; Sonata No. 8 in E flat; Sonata No. 9 in a minor; Sonata No. 12 in e minor

Source: XII Sonate a violino o violoncello, o Cimbalo, 1738

"Oh well, another Italian composer of violin sonatas, whom the performer thinks has been unjustly ignored - next!" If that was your reaction seeing the name of the composer and the music recorded by Maria Krestinskaya: hold on. There is a little more to Domenico Dall'Oglio than meets the eye.

The twelve sonatas for violin and basso continuo which were published in Paris in 1738, are not from the pen of one of the many Italian composers who settled in France during the second quarter of the 18th century, taking advantage of the growing popularity of Italian music and exploring the many possibilities for public performance. In fact, this set takes us to St Petersburg, a city which attracted a considerable number of composers, especially from Italy, during the 18th century. This was the effect of attempts of the Russian rulers to join in with the musical fashions in the rest of Europe.

Until the late 17th century Russia was very much isolated, and there were very few contacts with the western and central parts of Europe. It was tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) who opened the windows to the west and was especially impressed by the French monarchy under Louis XIV. However, it were his successors who imported music and musicians from outside the country. Some years ago Cecilia Bartoli recorded a disc with the title "St Petersburg", in which she investigated how Italian opera made its way into the Russian empire. The booklet to that production includes much interesting information about musical developments in the mid-18th century.

Three tsaritsas figure prominently in the story of Italian music in Russia. The first was Anna Ioannovna who ruled from 1730 to 1740. Under her rule the first Italian opera company settled in St Petersburg, with Domenico Dall'Oglio at its helm. He was from Padua, and he may have been a pupil of Giuseppe Tartini, who in 1721 was appointed first violinist and concert master at the Basilica di S Antonio in Padua. In 1732 Dall'Oglio entered the orchestra as a violinist, but in 1735 he travelled to St Petersburg, where his younger brother Giuseppe worked as a cellist at the court. Domenico remained here for 29 years. He worked as a violinist and was active as a composer. He was also involved in many court intrigues. It brought him into contact with some leading politicians. One of them was Field Marshal Reinhold Gustav von Lövenvolde, a member of the inner circle of courtiers. He became Dall'Oglio's patron, and to him these violin sonatas are dedicated. Maybe it was as a result of political intrigues that in 1764 Dall'Oglio had to leave Russia, together with his brother, under the rule of Catharine the Great. He died on his way to Italy, in Narva in Estonia.

The sonatas which are the subject of this disc are quite remarkable. First of all, the difference in form is notable. At a time when most sonatas followed the four-movement model of Corelli, Dall'Oglio takes the freedom to derive from the standard in some of the sonatas. The Sonata I is in four movements, but the third shifts from adagio to andante. The Sonata II is in three movements: grave, allegro, allegro. The Sonata III then is again in four movements, but in the third Dall'Oglio moves from largo to allegro and then to adagio. The Sonata IV included here follows the four-movement model, whereas the Sonata V turns to the three-movement form: slow, fast, fast. This moving back and forth between the two textures continues throughout the set. It was common practice at the time that collections of sonatas or concertos ended with a piece which was different from the others. Often composers included here a series of variations, for instance on the Folia. Dall'Oglio does the same here. The Sonata XII opens with a grave, which is followed by an allegro. Then we get a movement without tempo indication. It is a Russian folk song with seven variations. Here the composer takes the opportunity to present several violin techniques which he already had explored in the course of this set of sonatas.

That is the other notable feature of these pieces. They are technically demanding, and one wonders whether they were within the grasp of amateurs, usually the target group of printed editions of sonatas. They seem rather a reflection of Dall'Oglio's own skills at his instrument. Several sonatas include virtuosic passage-work in the high positions. Dall'Oglio regularly makes use of double stopping, for instance in the opening movement of the Sonata IV. The ensuiging allegro includes some strong dissonants, and whereas the composer in the other sonatas in minor keys moves to the relative major in the slow movement, he stays in the minor in the adagio here. Across the sonatas there are various - often long - episodes which are dominated by staccato indications, and there are also many passages in which the violin jumps up and down the scale, either in seconds or in wide leaps.

In the Sonata VIII the basso continuo is played at the organ alone. The bass line is remarkably busy here, with many repeated notes. Regularly we find the indication tr, which refers to the trill, that can only be played on a string bass. From that perspective I wonder whether a performance of the bass line on a cello would have been a better option. That was quite common at the time, but is hardly ever practised these days. The string bass in this recording is a bassetto, called in the booklet a 'small violone'; the instrument dates from around 1600.

One has to be thankful to Maria Krestinskaya for bringing these sonatas to our attention. The booklet doesn't say so, but it is likely that this disc includes world premiere recordings. I only could find another recording of the Sonata VIII. I sincerely hope that she will have the opportunity to record some more sonatas. These are excellent pieces, which will give much pleasure to anyone who likes 18th-century violin music. The performances are technically impressive and musically compelling. I was able to read the music while listening, and I liked the creative way Maria Krestinskaya added ornamentation in the repeats. This aspect strongly contributes to the attraction of this recording. Tempi, dynamics, articulation - everything is spot on here. Grigory Krotenko and Imbi Tarum also play an important part in making this disc a major addition to the discography.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

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Maria Krestinskaya

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