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Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692) is one of those obscure Baroque Italian composers who is still waiting to be not rediscovered but discovered. Sadly, this state of affairs has been going on for centuries, but for Vitali things are starting to change. Composer, cellist and singer, he is known for his contribution to the codification of the Baroque sonata, particularly for the 'sonata a tre'. His work influenced the chamber music of famous contemporaries such as Corelli, Torelli and even the great Purcell, and it can be defined as a synthesis of the counterpoint-based style of the 'sonata da chiesa' and the free melodic invention that was the hallmark of the 'sonata da camera'. Vitali was also the pioneer responsible for introducing the minuet in the Italian suite. During his lifetime he made a name for himself both as a virtuoso and as an accomplished composer, and he is much admired to this day thanks to the aesthetic and historical importance of his many instrumental works.
His most fruitful period came from 1674 onwards, after joining the Este Court in Modena and becoming one of the two assistant Kapellmeisters to Duke Francesco II. The Duke had a reputation for magnificence and splendour, and important events such as receptions, weddings and official visits of foreign sovereigns were lavishly celebrated, with new music being an integral part of all this 'extravaganza'.
Naturally, this ambience gave Vitali the opportunity to compose scores of works, and today Modena stands out for the abundance of its collection of musical documents in the 'Biblioteca Estense'. Indeed, many of Vitali's compositions form part of this huge musical goldmine. As earmarked before, the composer is much admired to this day, but admiration alone is not enough for one to get a clear picture of what Vitali was capable of. He must have his music performed. Then, and only then, can we pass judgement on this forward-looking innovator of the Italian baroque.
Listen — Vitali: Chiacona per la lettera B
(track 4, 0:00-0:58) © 2020 Tactus :
Now, thanks to Tactus' fine ongoing cycle of which this issue is the third instalment, we can lose ourselves in this gorgeously crafted music full of melodic sweetness and intensely passionate emotions.
Listen — Vitali: Prima Suonata à Violino solo (Op 13)
(track 11, 1:15-2:15) © 2020 Tactus :
Italico Splendore's playing is infectiously uninhibited and technically faultless, resulting in a programme of immense pleasure.
Listen — Vitali: Passo, e mezzo per la lettera E
(track 19, 4:51-5:49) © 2020 Tactus :
Riveting annotations and immaculate sound quality complete a disc of unqualified distinction.
Copyright © 12 May 2020