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"Continuo, addio! - Duets, sonatas, caprices for violin & cello"

Duo Tartini

rec: Sept 4 - 7, 2018, Franc-Warêt (B), Eglise Saint-Rémi
muso - mu-031 (© 2019) (75'32")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Johann Georg ALBRECHTSBERGER (1736-1809): Duetto III in a minor; Francesco Antonio BONPORTI (1672-1749): Aria cromatica e variata in a minor; Giuseppe DALL'ABACO (1710-1805): Capriccio for cello solo No. 6 in e minor; Pierre LAHOUSSAYE (1735-1818): Sonata in g minor, op. 1,4; Pietro NARDINI (1722-1793): Capriccio for violin solo in c minor; Sonata in c minor, op. 5,6; Giovanni Benedetto PLATTI (1697-1763): Ricercata IV in G (D-WD 673); Andreas ROMBERG (1767-1821) & Bernhard ROMBERG (1767-1841): Duo concertant No. 1 in e minor; Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770): Sonata in G (B. G7)

Pietro Nardini, Six Solos for the Violin with a Bass, op. 5, c1769; Pierre Lahoussaye, Sei sonate, op. 1, c1774

David Plantier, violin; Annabelle Luis, cello

Music for violin and cello does not appear on disc that often. That goes in particular for the repertoire of the period we call Baroque. Some musicologists have labelled this period as the 'basso continuo era'. That is certainly right in that most pieces written from the first decades of the 17th century until the early classical period included a figured bass part. However, composers did write music for solo instruments without a basso continuo, such as Bach in his sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin. Moreover, whereas in today's performance practice the basso continuo is mostly realised by a chordal instrument, such as harpsichord, organ or theorbo, it was quite common at the time to perform that part on a string bass. That is the starting point of the present disc.

However, this disc's repertoire goes beyond that. Even in some sonatas for a solo instrument and basso continuo, the bass part includes passages in which it participates in the musical proceedings on a more prominent basis. That is the case, for instance, in some of Jean-Marie Leclair's sonatas. Such passages indicate that a string bass is indispensable, and that the performance of the basso continuo cannot be confined to a keyboard instrument. The programme includes two kinds of pieces: on the one hand those with a bass part which gives the impression of being intended for a cello alone, and on the other hand real duets in which violin and cello are treated on strictly equal footing.

The disc opens with the Sonata in G by Giuseppe Tartini, an advocate of a more 'natural' style in instrumental music, just like Gluck in opera. He composed a number of sonatas in which the addition of a bass is optional. He himself preferred to play them unaccompanied, but the general demand of the music loving community was music with a basso continuo part. In a number of his works the bass part is not figured. It is also documented that he played his music with a cellist. This is the motivation of the two artists here, the violinist David Plantier and the cellist Annabelle Luis, to perform this sonata in this way.

In the first movement of this sonata, Plantier included a cadenza by Tartini's pupil Pietro Nardini who made a strong impression on Leopold Mozart. Again, his Sonata in c minor was published with a basso continuo part, but as most of his sonatas are not figured, a performance by violin and cello is fully justified. It is preceded by a capriccio for violin solo, which is not unlike the famous capricci by Pietro Antonio Locatelli, which he included in his set of violin concertos.

Platti and Bonporti are representatives of the baroque era, although in the latter's oeuvre one can find traces of the early classical style. Bonporti's Aria cromatica e variata has a figured bass, but - according to Plantier - it has the hallmarks of a duet of violin and cello. Platti composed quite a number of works for the cello or with important cello parts, thanks to his connection to a cello-loving aristocrat. The latter played the cello himself, and this could well explain that the two melody parts in the Ricercata IV are treated on equal footing.

With the remaining pieces, we are in the classical era. Giuseppe (or Joseph-Marie-Clément) Dall'Abaco, son of the slightly better-known Evaristo Felice, was a member of the electoral chapel in Bonn from 1729 onwards. Apparently he was allowed to travel across Europe as a cello virtuoso; he made appearances in this capacity in London and Vienna. The Capriccio included here is one of a set of eleven. These pieces are technically demanding and have strongly improvisational traits. Pierre Lahoussay is even lesser-known than Dall'Abaco. He was a violinist who worked in Paris, where he met Mozart. His Sonata in g minor is from a set of six, published as his Op. 1 around 1773. These pieces are technically demanding for the violinist, and although the bass part is figured, Plantier mentions indications in the score that the bass is intended for the cello alone.

The pieces by Albrechtsberger and the Rombergs are genuine duets. The former's Duetto in a minor is one of a set of six, all structured in the form of a prelude and fugue. The prelude, with the tempo indication andante, includes chromaticism. Whereas Albrechtsberger was a professional keyboard player, the Rombergs were educated as a violinist and a cellist respectively. As such the two cousins performed across Europe. In the Duo concertant in e minor the cello plays the main role, and Bernhard, the cellist who was responsible for the composing of this part, explores the highest register of his instrument. The piece comprises two movements, the first of which is a brilliant set of variations.

It brings to a close a most interesting and musical compelling journey through the repertoire of the 18th century for the combination of violin and cello. It is interesting to follow the emancipation of the cello to a virtuosic instrument, which at the end of the century was the violin's equal. The two performers deliver outstanding performances. They deserve praise for the way they have put together the programme, which includes mostly little-known items, as well for their imaginative interpretation of the selected items. I am looking forward to upcoming projects of these two fine performers.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

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