musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Corelli's Legacy"

Musica Antiqua Roma

rec: March 2 - 5, 2007, Sezze Romano, Auditorium 'M. Costa'
Passacaille - 962 (© 2010) (57'45")

Giovanni Stefano CARBONELLI (?-1752): Sonata in d minor, op. 1,2; Prospero CASTRUCCI (1st half 18th C): Sonata in g minor, op. 1,4; Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713), arr Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762) & anon: Sonata in A, op. 5,9 [1]; Pietro Antonio LOCATELLI (1695-1764): Sonata in A, op. 8,10 [4]; Antonio Maria MONTANARI (1676-1737): Sonata in d minor: giga senza basso; Giovanni MOSSI (1680-1742): Sonata in b minor, op. 1,5 [3]; Gasparo VISCONTI (1683-1713): Sonata in e minor, op. 1,5 [2]

(Sources: [1] Arcangelo Corelli, Sonate, op. 5, 1700; [2] Gasparo Visconti, Sonate, op. 1, 1703; [3] Giovanni Mossi, Sonate a Violino, e Violone o Cimbalo, op. 1, 1716; [4] Pietro Antonio Locatelli, X Sonate, op. 8, 1744

Riccardo Minasi, violin; Marco Ceccato, cello; Margret Köll, harp; Giulia Nuti, harpsichord, organ

In the decades around 1700 Rome was one of the main music centres of Europe, and Arcangelo Corelli was its centre. Hardly any composer in music history has been able to set a standard for generations to come like Corelli. In particular his sonatas for violin and basso continuo opus 5, which were published in 1700, were considered the model to follow. He not only had a lasting influence on his many pupils, but they also were instrumental in disseminating his style over Europe. England is a particularly telling example, as in the early decades of the 18th century a large number of Italian musicians travelled to England to find employment.

Francesco Geminiani is just one of them, who claimed to have been a pupil of Corelli, although that can't be confirmed from the sources. But he was important in making Corelli's music popular in England, for instance through his arrangements of Corelli's sonatas opus 5 as concerti grossi. He also provided ornamentation to Corelli's sonatas, which Riccardo Minasi has used in his performance of Corelli's Sonata in A, op. 5,9, with additional ornaments by an anonymous master, which are found in a manuscript in Manchester from around 1740. This is also an indication how long Corelli's influence lasted, despite the changes in aesthetics.

Another Italian in England was Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli, about whom very little is known. He even hasn't an entry in New Grove. In the tracklist of this disc the year of his birth isn't given, but according to the tracklist of Hélène Schmitt's recording of five of his sonatas (Alpha 046) he was born in around 1690 and died in 1772. I couldn't find any information about his education and therefore I don't know if he has been one of Corelli's pupils. In England he was closely associated with Handel, and acted as first violinist at the Royal Academy of Music and later at the Drury Lane Theatre. He must have been a musician of considerable repute as Vivaldi dedicated a violin concerto to him. Only one collection of music by Carbonelli was published, and the Sonata in d minor, op. 1,2 (not at the disc of Hélème Schmitt) follows the Corellian model, although the first movement is rather unusual, with a sequence of adagio-allegro-adagio.

Also settling in England were the Castrucci brothers, Pietro and Prospero. In New Grove only the former is mentioned. They arrived in London in 1715 and played the concertino in Handel's orchestra for over twenty years. Just one collection of six sonatas for violin and bc by Prospero was published, in 1739. The Sonata in g minor, op. 1,4 is harmonically remarkable, especially the second movement. The sonata moves away from the Corellian model with its three movements in the order slow-fast-fast.

The last Italian immigrant in London is Gasparo Visconti, who was from a noble family in Cremona and arrived in England as early as 1702. He stated that he had been Corelli's pupil for five years. In London he often gave solo performances of Italian music and played with the violinist William Corbett and the flautist James Paisible. In 1706 he returned to Cremona, where in 1713 he was visited by Giuseppe Tartini who was deeply impressed by his talent. His six sonatas opus 1 were published in Amsterdam and London in 1703. The Sonata in e minor, op. 1,5 (wrongly referred to as op. 2 in the tracklist) follows the model of Corelli, with four movements: grave-allegro-grave-allegro.

Pietro Antonio Locatelli was from Bergamo and went to Rome, where he came under Corelli's influence, although there is no evidence that h was his pupil. He developed into one of Europe's most virtuoso and celebrated violinist, although his style of playing didn't meet universal approval. The remarkable aspect of his Sonata in A, op. 8,10 is the concertante role of the cello, which often imitates the material of the first violin. There are also passages in which both instruments play in parallel motion. Of all composers on this disc he moves most away from the Corellian model. This sonata consists of three movements: cantabile, allegro and vivace.

The disc ends with a curious piece from a manuscript which is preserved in Dresden. The Sonata in d minor by Antonio Maria Montanari is scored for violin and bc, but the last movement - which is played here - is for violin solo. This is the only piece for violin solo by an Italian composer which has ever been found. It is a virtuosic piece with much double stopping and I just wonder whether this could have been played by Johann Georg Pisendel - member of the Dresden court orchestra - who also wrote a sonata for violin solo and was Germany's most virtuosic violinist in the first half of the 18th century.

Riccaro Minasi delivers extraverted and theatrical performances. That mostly does justice to the character of the music played on this disc. But he tends to go a little over the top, and sometimes I wondered if now and then more moderation wouldn't have been appropriate. For instance, I could imagine a more lyrical approach to the aria from the Sonata in d minor by Carbonelli. And I also don't think that a theatrical style of playing needs to be as aggressive as Minasi sometimes is. But on the whole this is a very interesting and captivating disc. The other members of Musica Antiqua Roma are playing at the same level, the ensemble is excellent and Marco Ceccato gives a fine account of the cello part in the Sonata in A by Locatelli. It is also nice to hear a harp in the basso continuo of some sonatas.

Riccardo Minasi wrote the informative programme notes in Italian, with translations in English, French and German - including footnotes - and the booklet also specifies the instruments used in this recording.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

CD Reviews