Sonatas 1 - 6, Il Rossignolo
Only recently I
reviewed a recording of the first six sonatas from this same
op. 2 by the ensemble Il Rossignolo. I'm not going to repeat
here all the information about the composer and these sonatas
given there. It is relevant, though, to refer here to the popularity
of this collection of sonatas, which is reflected by the fact
that during Marcello's lifetime no less than three different
editions of his op. 2 were published. The first was printed
by Giuseppe Sala in Venice in 1712. It was followed by the edition
of Etienne Roger, which appeared in Amsterdam in 1715. Like
the original edition it was scored for recorder and basso continuo.
As late as 1730 another edition was published, this time in
London by John Walsh. At that time the transverse flute gained
in popularity at the expense of the recorder, and therefore
in Walsh's edition the sonatas were transposed to keys which
made them more comfortable for the flute.
In this recording
the sonatas are played on recorder, transverse flute and violin.
All three editions have been used, and the respective numbers
in the editions are given in the tracklist. Sala and Roger use
the same order, but in Walsh's edition the sonatas are printed
in a different order. In the tracklist above I have corrected
one error in the tracklist of the discs: the first sonata of
disc one is not number 7, but number 8. I also have given the
original keys, as the discs only give the keys in which the
sonatas are played here. The recorder uses the original keys,
the violin and the transverse flute are playing transpositions
- the violin keeps the original key once.
wrote these sonatas for the recorder there is no objection against
playing them on other instruments, even transposed to a different
key. That was common practice in the 18th century, and a publication
like John Walsh's is proof of that. Composers themselves were
often only suggesting a specific instrument, and there are many
collections of sonatas of Marcello's time which leave the choice
of instrument to the performer.
There is also much
variety in the scoring of the basso continuo here. Sometimes
only a harpsichord is used, mostly a combination of cello and
lute or organ. In one sonata the solo instrument (the violin)
is supported by cello only. The variety in the scoring of the
basso continuo is one of the positive aspects of this recording.
Another is the lively playing of all participants - this performance
is anything but boring and is testimony to the quality of Marcello's
sonatas. Unfortunately there are too many aspects which hold
me back from recommending this recording.
First of all there
are some technical problems. Everyone knows most recordings
are the result of cutting and pasting, but the listener should
not hear that. Here, regrettably, the edits are clearly audible
in several tracks. There is also something strange about the
acoustic, which seems to change from one track to another. As
far as the presentation is concerned I find it rather inconvenient
that every sonata gets just one track and that it is impossible
to search for a specific movement from a sonata. And the decision
to give only the key in which the sonata is played on these
discs makes a comparison with other recordings very difficult.
The listener has the right to know what the original key is.
Also strange is that the booklet mentions two players who play
the 'flute', but: which flute? The recorder or the transverse
flute? It is totally unclear which player is playing which flute.
Despite the positive
things said about the interpretation before I am not impressed
by it as a whole. Sure, the recorder's dynamic range is limited
but more dynamic contrasts are possible than the player - whoever
he or she may be - produces here. Martin Noferi in Il Rossignolo's
recording makes that abundantly clear. The playing of the violinist
is unconvincing, sometimes outright painful. In some movements
the intonation is problematic, and otherwise one doesn't get
the impression he is above the material. Over the years I have
heard violinists in fringe concerts in the Holland Festival
Early Music who played better than Luigi Rovighi. The performances
on the transverse flute are the most satisfying part of this
recording. What is a feature of this performance as a whole
is a lack of differentiation in the way the notes are played:
there are too few dynamic shades, too little variety in the
length of equal notes and not enough breathing spaces.
In short: despite
the positive aspects of this interpretation the recording as
a whole is disappointing. The performance shows its age - and
there is nothing wrong about that -, but I can't see a reason
to release it, and the technical shortcomings are definitely
Johan van Veen