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"Forza Azzurri!"

Tabea Debus, recordera
La Serenissima
Dir: Adrian Chandler

rec: June 2 - 4, 2021 & Feb 14/16, 2022, Wells, Somerset, Wells Cathedral School (Cedars Hall)
Signum Classics - SIGCD705 (© 2022) (82'18")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giuseppe Antonio BRESCIANELLO (c1690-1758): Overture for strings and bc in D; Evaristo Felice DALL'ABACO (1675-1742): Concerto for strings and bc in D, op. 6,12; Giuseppe SAMMARTINI (1695-1750): Concerto for recorder, strings and bc in Fa; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1743): Concerto for flautino, strings and bc in C (RV 443)a; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in e minor (RV 281)b; Concerto for violin, strings and bc in A (RV 353)b; Lorenzo Gaetano ZAVATERI (1690-1764): Introducione in G, op. 1,1

Sources: Evaristo Felice dall'Abaco, Concerti à più istrumenti, op. 6, 1735; Lorenzo Gaetano Zavateri, Concerti da chiesa, e da camera, op. 1, 1735

Adrian Chandler (solob), Oliver Cave, Guy Button, Andrej Karpor, Simone Pirri, Henrietta Haynes, Agata Daraskaite, Simon Kodurand, Claudia Norz, James O'Toole, Ellen Bundy, violin; Elitsa Bogdanova, Thomas Kirby, Thomas Kettle, viola; Vladimir Waltham, Jonathan Manson, Carina Drury, cello; Carina Cosgrave, Zaynab Martin, double bass; Lynda Sayce, theorbo, guitar; Robin Bigwood, harpsichord

As the name of the ensemble La Serenissima suggests, the ensemble focuses on Italian music, and in particular the oeuvre of Antonio Vivaldi, certainly the most famous composer of Venice, known as La Serenissima. In the ensemble's discography he takes a major place, but Adrian Chandler and his colleagues also perform and record music by other Italian composers, placing Vivaldi in his historical context. The disc under review is a good example of their approach. (Don't ask me what the title means - I have no idea, and it is not explained in the booklet.)

The programme offers a mixture of pieces by Vivaldi and some of his lesser-known compatriots. The best-known of them is undoubtedly Giuseppe Sammartini, an oboist by profession, who was of French origin, but was born in Milan, where his father had settled. His brother was Giovanni Battista, like him educated as an oboist, but first and foremost known as a composer who played a major role in the development of the classical style. Giuseppe settled in London in the late 1720s. The music historian John Hawkins stated: "As a performer on the hautboy, Martini was undoubtedly the greatest that the world had ever known." He performed with the best musicians of his time, like Bononcini, Porpora and Handel. His best-known composition is the Concerto in F for recorder included here. It is part of the standard repertoire of recorder players and is available in several recordings. Do not fear that we get here more of the same - Tabea Debus' performance is different from others in her addition of embellishments and cadenzas, where she is probably more generous and adventurous than many of her colleagues.

The programma opens with probably the least-known of all the composers included here. Lorenzo Gaetano Zavateri was from Bologna and studied the violin with Giuseppe Torelli. He performed as a violinist in several places, and in 1717 he became a member of the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna. His compositional oeuvre is small and consists of twelve concertos Op. 1 and six Divertimenti musicali for violin and basso continuo Op. 2. Among the twelve concertos seven are for strings and basso continuo, among them the first performed here, whose opening movement is dominated by staccato figures (largo e spicco). The other five have an obbligato violin part. The whole set has been recorded by the Freiburger Barockorchester (deutsche harmonia mundi, 2009).

In recent times several recordings have been released which focused on the oeuvre of Giuseppe Maria (or Joseph-Marie-Clément) dall'Abaco, a professional cellist. He was the son of Evaristo Felice, who was born in Verona into a family of high social standing. He was educated at the violin and the cello, probably by Giuseppe Torelli. In 1696 he settled in Modena, where he became acquainted with the French style, as the director of the court orchestra was French. In 1704 at the latest he worked as a cellist in the orchestra of the Munich court. Due to political and military developments during the War of the Spanish succession, his employer had to flee to Brussels, and Dall'Abaco followed him; there his above-mentioned son was born. Although he intensified his acquiantance with the French style, which has left its marks in his oeuvre, his music is predominantly Italian, like the Concerto in D performed here. It is the last piece from his six collections of music; the Op. 6 was published in 1735 in Amsterdam.

Talking about the French style: the most clear specimen of that in this programme is the Overture in D by Giuseppe Antonio Brescianelli. In recent years Chandler has focused on his output, which he produced during his time at the Württemberg court in Stuttgart, where he was in the service of Duke Eberhard Ludwig. The instrumental oeuvre of Brescianello has two faces. Eberhard Ludwig had stayed in Paris around 1700, and he was one of many aristocrats, who were deeply impressed by music life in France, at and around the court of Louis XIV. Many aimed at imitating what they had heard and seen, and asked their chapel to play and their Kapellmeister to compose in the French style. The latter were called Lullistes, and to some extent Brescianello was one of them. The overture performed here is one of five. It opens with a typical ouverture in binary form: the slow first section with its dotted rhythm is followed by a fugal fast section. After a sequence of dances, the work ends with a long chiacona, the longest movement of the entire work.

Vivaldi is then represented with three solo concertos. He did not compose that many concertos for the recorder, but those he did write, are of high quality and must have been intended for a skilled player, very likely from the Ospedale della Pietà. They belong among the most popular concertos of today's recorder players. The Concerto in C is intended for the flautino (sopranino), but the manuscript suggests the possibility to play the solo part a fourth lower, on a larger recorder.

As Vivaldi was one of the greatest violinists of his time, for no instrument he composed more concertos than for his own. Most of them were undoubtedly intended for his own use, but he also wrote for others, and especially for the highly-skilled girls of the Ospedale. Some concertos were also intended for performance during the intervals of opera performances, but the two concertos included here were probably not, Chandler thinks. They may date from the 1730s and are preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria in Turin, which owns the largest collection of Vivaldi manuscripts in the world. They have the characteristic form of all Vivaldi's concertos: two fast movements with brilliant solo parts embrace a more intimate slow movement, in which the solo part is more modest in its technical requirements, and there is more room for expression.

All the characteristics of Vivaldi's concertos are convincingly demonstrated here. Chandler is an excellent violist, who has a thorough understanding of what it takes to bring this music to life. He is assisted by an alert ensemble and a high-class recorder player. I already mentioned Tabea Debus' imaginative performance of Sammartini's concerto; Vivaldi's concerto also receives an outstanding performance.

This disc opens a window to the oeuvre of several composers many music lovers may not know very well or at all. There is much more than Vivaldi and some other well-known masters in Italian music. This disc is a good proposition for those who would like to broaden their horizon.

Johan van Veen (© 2024)

Relevant links:

La Serenissima

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