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Giovanni Antonio PANDOLFI MEALLI (1624 - after 1687): "Sonate, Roma 1669"

Opera Qvinta
Dir: Fabrizio Longo

rec: May 2013, Caserotta (FI), Chiesa di S. Margherita
Tactus - TC 621602 ( 2017) (61'29")
Liner-notes: E/I
Cover, track-list & booklet

Il Candeloro. Capriccetto secondo 3; Il Cara. Capriccetto quinto 3; Il Catalano. Capriccetto violino solo; Il Colangiolo. Balletto quinto due violini; Il Domenga. Sarabanda; Il Drago. Capriccetto terzo 3; Il Falvetti. Capriccetto quarto 3; Il Ferrotti. Balletto secondo due violini; Il Folcognoni. Balletto primo due violini; Il Giusto. Balletto terzo due violini; Il Marquetta. Passacaglio due violini; Il Mauritio. Capriccetto violino solo; Il Monforti. Balletto violino solo; Il Muscari. Capriccetto sesto 3; Il Raimondo. Capriccetto violino solo; Il Tozzi. Capriccetto primo 3; La Domenga. Sarabanda due violini; Lo Giudice. Balletto quarto due violini; La Spata Fora. Trombetta 2 violini

Fabrizio Longo, Aki Takahashi, violin; Francesco Tomei, viola da gamba; Giovanni Bellini, theorbo; Anna Clemente, harpsichord, organ; Fabio Tricomi, tamburo, tamburello, flauto triplo, scacciapensieri, triangolo

Among violinists Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli has a special status. His two sets of virtuosic sonatas for violin and basso continuo have been recorded several times. However, the biographical information about the man who wrote them is rather sketchy.

He was born in Montepulciano in Tuscany and received his musical education at the San Marco in Venice where his stepbrother worked as a castrato. Next we meet him in Innsbruck: in the 1650s he had joined the court of Princess de' Medici. Here he also published the sonatas I mentioned above as his Op. 3 and Op. 4 respectively. The opus numbers indicate that he had published music before, but nothing of that has come to light. Both collections came from the press in 1660, and that same year Pandolfi Mealli left Innsbruck. It is only in 1669 that his whereabouts are documented again: when the collection which is the subject of the present disc was printed in Rome he was working as a violinist in the senatorial chapel of the Cathedral in Messina.

The Sonate cio balletti, sarabande, correnti, passacagli, capriccetti, e una trombetta a uno e dui violini con la terza parte della viola a beneplacito comprises 18 pieces: 15 for two violins, viola da gamba and basso continuo and four for solo violin with basso continuo. The sonatas of 1660 all have titles which refer to colleagues in Innsbruck. The same is the case in the collection of 1669. The names can be identified with the help of a pasquinade which has been found in the State Archives of Messina. Its references to the people whose names appear in the set of sonatas are mostly not very flattery. One of them is Guiovannino Marquett, a castrato singer. In a conflict, probably caused by political differences, Pandolfo Mealli killed him. Mealli took refuge in Spain where he stayed for the rest of his life and worked as a violinist in the Capilla Real in Madrid.

The pieces in the collection of 1669 are given different names, such as capriccetto and balletto. One is called trombetta and includes a battaglia. In addition there is one sarabanda and one passacaglio. Fabrizio Longo, in his liner-notes, states that the pieces for two violins are in fact a kind of little suites as most of them include one or several dances. Notable is the fact that the title page refers to the part of the viola - which means the viola da gamba - as being a beneplacito, meaning ad libitum. However, in New Grove it is stated that this part is in fact essential. It shows that title pages cannot always be taken literally. The same goes for the fact that the composer mentions only the organ as basso continuo instrument. That should not be interpreted as the only possibility; the performers rightly also make use of the harpsichord. It was probably a way to indicate that the organ was a legitimate option in pieces most of which have a dance character.

The latter aspect has inspired the performers to add percussion instruments in the dance movements. The English translation, which leaves something to be desired, is rather misleading here. It says that "it was decided to enrich it [the collection] by numerous movements of dance with the sound of the tradition of southern Italy." However, no music has been added; everything played here is from the pen of Pandolfi Mealli. There is no indication on the title page that the use of percussion was intended by the composer. I am not saying that its participation is wrong, but I doubt whether it is in line with the character of these pieces. I would have liked to hear them without percussion. There is no percussion in the solo sonatas; these are of a slightly different character, more like the sonatas from the Op. 3 and Op. 4, although certainly less virtuosic.

Considering that up until now only the latter collections have received any attention there is every reason to welcome this recording. The members of Opera Qvinta deliver lively and technically immaculate performances. There is every reason for lovers of Italian violin music to add this disc to their collection. At the same time I would like to see another recording without percussion.

Johan van Veen ( 2018)

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