La Cremona - Concerti per 3 & 4 Violini. Berliner Barock Solisten / Reinhard Goebel. © 2023 Hänssler Classic / Profil Medien GmbH

CD Spotlight

Grace and Elegance

Italian concertos heard by GERALD FENECH

'Boundless enjoyment from beginning to end.'


This is what Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755), the famous German violinist of the baroque era, had to say about Italian composers:

The Italians are uninhibited composers, brilliant, vivacious, expressive, profound, noble in thought, at times negligent in tempo, but they are also lyrical, cajoling, tender, touching and inventive. They write more for connoisseurs than music lovers.

Listening to this Hänssler Classic disc, La Cremona, I could not but agree with Pisendel's assumptions. Indeed, these concertos for three and four violins by five Italian composers from the early- to mid-eighteenth century are mainly in the galant style, where the music is bedecked with grace and elegance with the aim of caressing the senses and uplifting the heart.

All these elements feature, for better or worse, on this album, although former contrapuntal rigours were not totally discarded. Leonardo Leo's Concerto in D for four violins presents both the black and white with a 'fugato' movement, a 'moderato' in the dance metre of a 'siciliano' and a joyous but straightforward finale marked 'Allegro'.

Listen — Leonardo Leo: Allegro (Concerto in D)
(HC22084 track 7, 0:00-0:57) ℗ 2023 Hänssler Classic / Profil Medien GmbH :

For melodic lyricism Antonio Vivaldi is the protagonist here. In the first movement of the Concerto in F, RV 551, one of three violin soloists weaves an arresting 'cantilena' over an arpeggio accompaniment in the last of the solo sections.

Listen — Vivaldi: Allegro (Concerto in F)
(HC22084 track 8, 3:31-4:10) ℗ 2023 Hänssler Classic / Profil Medien GmbH :

An expressive 'Andante' follows, but in contrast with the outer movements, this is slightly lacking in emotional effect. The concerto ends with an uncomplicated 'Allegro' full of verve and spirit.

The other Vivaldi piece for four violins in B Flat, RV 553, has many felicitous moments, and is as virtuosic as any by this composer.

Compared with Vivaldi the Pietro Locatelli Concerto for Four Violins in D, Op 4 No 12, has many charming moments, but the piece in general lacks that excitement which is so vital in such works.

Giovanni Battista Sammartini's Concerto for Four Violins in A is a wholly attractive piece full of engaging pyrotechnics for both soloists and audience alike.

Listen — Sammartini: Rondo: Spirituose (Concerto for Four Violins in A)
(HC22084 track 18, 2:04-2:58) ℗ 2023 Hänssler Classic / Profil Medien GmbH :

Francesco Durante's Concerto in G minor is the only one on this programme that does not have a specific number of violins as soloists. Indeed, it is written for strings and 'basso continuo'. What is so particular about this concerto when compared to the rest is that in each of the three movements the marking 'affettuoso' appears every time. Indeed, the music is exquisitely graceful and charming, and its sweet fragility is portrayed with tenderness and refined docility.

Listen — Durante: Largo affetuoso (Concerto in G minor)
(HC22084 track 2, 2:34-3:28) ℗ 2023 Hänssler Classic / Profil Medien GmbH :

Reinhard Goebel and his Berliner Barock Solisten exude performances full of warmth and musicianship but, above all, there is a richness of dexterity that captures all the brilliant variety of the moods and colours of this musica all'Italiana. Boundless enjoyment from beginning to end. Sound and annotations are first-rate.

Copyright © 2 September 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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